If you are a parent of a teenager, or the parent of a future teenager, today's ramblings under the "Care" Category are dedicated to you! Now, I'll admit, I've not been the parent of a teenager for very long. My daughter is only 14; but I feel like we're both tackling this journey with just the right amount of support and understanding:
--She says, "I need a hair cut, new clothes and my iTunes card has no more money on it"
--I say "My roots are showing, me too and my Starbucks card has no more money on it!
Teaching her a bit of independence has also been crucial the last couple of years:
--She says, "What's for dinner?"
-- I say, "Whatever you make for yourself."
And of course, no life with teenagers is complete without the standard battle of rolling eyes, "whatever(s)" and anguished cries of "why are you trying to ruin my life?!"
--She says, "Don't be so mad at me!"
-- I say, "Then stop doing things that make me mad!"
I use the above examples as quirky little anecdotes that are usually few and far between; but her being a teenager and me being the parent of a teenager is new to both of us for sure. I have found, however that communication...good, and bad is the key to our mainly happy relationship. I have also found that it is the conversations about ordinary every day things that help us and keep us connected the most.
There is always going to be a need and time to have the BIG and important conversations: Sex, Drugs/Alchohol, Social responsibilities, Future plans for college, career etc. However, you cannot just show up for those big talks and not take an interest in the things that matter to your teen on an every day basis. That's not parenting a teenager, that's just trying to get through 6 years of your life with as little work as possible.
Now, I'm not a parenting expert...like AT ALL! Still, I wanted to share the 5 things I try to talk with my daughter about on a fairly regular basis. These are not conversations limited to teens, by any means...I have these same (slightly modified) conversations with my two younger children as well.
1. What has been happening at school lately?
This is not the conversation about academics. This is the conversation that lets your teen know that you are interested in what happens in the place where she spends her entire day away from you. This is the conversation that asks, "Do you get to see your friends in the hallways between classes?" "Who did you eat lunch with today?", "Is your friend who was sick feeling better?" "Did anyone get into a fight?" "Have you seen or talked to that cute boy/girl you told me about" These are questions that let your teen know you care, that you have a desire to want to know more than "did you do your homework?"
2. Do you have a plan for upcoming week with school, sports etc?
THIS is the academics conversation. This is the conversation you have that goes through every class, asking if/when tests are, projects, homework is due etc. This is the conversation that lets him/her know not only do you care, but it also teaches a sense of ownership, and in the case of sports activities too, it teaches time management and goal setting. You can't leave it for the last month of school or right before report cards are issued to take an interest in your child's academic life. You cannot tell your child you want them to succeed in college, and life etc, and then not help them be aware of the work that that requires.
3. What are you watching on You Tube?
You will get no arguments from me about the wonders of You Tube. It is indeed a revolutionary part of our world today. I know my daughter watches it all the time as well; and I have no problem with it because I ask her all the time what she's watching. By being accepting of the fact that she enjoys this, she opens up to me about who she enjoys, what she searches for (mostly, music videos, TV show montages and beauty/make up/fashion channels) You Tube is part of the teenage world, simple as that. Some will argue, I'm sure, at this point that teenagers can't be trusted online. I disagree, teenagers can be trusted if they feel like that trust matters.
4. Tell me about your new Facebook friend, (Instagram follower etc)
This is another social media type conversation. It's so simple, really...be interested in your child's friends and followers! Ask, how do you know that person? Is she in one of your classes? Does his family live here? It doesn't really matter what questions you ask; but by asking any question at all, it tells your teenager that you care about the people with whom they are making connections.
5. How have you been feeling lately?
Sometimes, it is just good to ask how your teen/child is feeling in general lately. This is the conversation that asks, "have you been having any physical issues at all...aches, pains, notice any spots or areas of concern on your body etc? "Is everything happy in your world at the moment?" "Is there anything on your mind, you would like to talk about?" This is the conversation that just lets your child know you are available, and that you care.
There are going to be triumphs, laughter and happiness; and there are going to be challenges, tears and meltdowns. Raising a teenager isn't about you, and it's not about them. Grab them by the hand, (for as long as they'll let you...) and enjoy the journey together!
I'm sharing this post with the following linky parties: (I am interested in participating in more parenting linky parties, so if you have one or have any recommendations, please let me know)
1. Coffee and Conversations
2. A Little R&R
3. Makeovers and Motherhood