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Tweens to Teens

There are some things in this life for which you can never be completely prepared. We’re given these cute, little babies. We fall madly in love with them; they fall in love with us. Even with the bumps in the road, it can be a beautiful process and experience. Then, the unimaginable happens. They become teenagers. They begin to hate us first, but inevitably, we get to the point where we can’t stand them either (all the while still loving them and searching in the new face for the old familiar one). Now, I know that it’s all by design. We can’t effectively separate from our kids and them from us when the appropriate time comes if we don’t develop some healthy distance. But can’t we make it less painful?

When my daughter was in Middle School, things gradually changed. The boys and girls began to look at each other differently. Those hormones were raging and the kids who had known each other for years were suddenly having crushes on each other or simply realizing, “Wow, he/she got cute!”

I realized things had changed and that I had to begin asking some pointed questions before birthday parties that hadn’t come up before, such as: Will the kids be supervised at the party? Will they be going anywhere during the course of the party? Will the parents be home? Will there be any alcohol? Who is going to be there? My previously fairly relaxed stance suddenly kicked into hyper-alert.

These are just the beginning of the concerns of parents of teens.

As a Parent and Family Coach, I have been watching, researching and asking lots of questions. My questions were really motivated more as a fearful parent, but the information is useful for me professionally, too! Here are the results of my informal research.

We must retain our own sense of self-confidence. Rest assured, it will be tested as our children will be horribly embarrassed by every move we make, whatever clothing we wear, or simply how we breathe.

Communication is essential. There is a lot more going on than meets the eye. Some of it they really don’t want you to know. That’s usually ok because they feel they need to work things out themselves, but don’t be afraid to ask questions while trying not to be too intrusive. Be respectfully curious, listen more than you talk and keep your eyes and ears open at all times for danger signs.

Ironically, I believe the answer to decreasing the challenges (not eliminating them) is in setting good, firm limits. Here’s the catch. It should be done as early as possible. If you attempt to impose new limits on a 16 year old, you’re going to meet with a lot of resistance and conflict. If you begin to make good, strong rules from early on, your kids will not be surprised when the rules are enforced later.

Another habit to start as early as possible is family time. Eating dinner regularly as a family and other family activities that everyone enjoys become even more important as your child enters the teen years. Your child becomes busy with activities, friends, etc…and you’ll want to have a reason to welcome them back into the fold once in a while. Most of them will enjoy it, too, even though they may not admit it.

The good news is that eventually they do grow up and come back to the family. So, hang in there and be patient!

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