The 2 Things Your Teen Needs

Raising two teenage daughters has me feeling like I need to crawl into the fetal position and weep on a weekly basis. It takes a person with some well-intact self-esteem to raise a teenager, wouldn’t you say? If you’re feeling the same way: SOLIDARITY, friend. On the other hand, this is just how it is right now, and we’re going to have to see how this thing plays out on the other end. 

teensSpeaking of “how this thing plays out,” there are two very important things I think all parents need to embrace in order to have the best possible outcome for their child when they emerge from the very challenging teen years. 

The 2 Things Your Teen Needs

  1. Involved Parents. Your kids need you at every single phase of their lives. What they’re into, you need to be into right along with them. This doesn’t mean you can’t have your own life – I very much support having your own life interests. What it DOES mean is that you take time to know what’s going on with your child and that you spend quality time with them. I’ve talked about how to bond with your teen in other places because I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to really become involved in your child’s life, even if they don’t seem to want you there some days. There are two main ways I think we should be thinking about being involved:
  • Social Media. Know where your child is going online and who they’re chatting with. Ask them about their friends, find out what’s happening behind the screen. A news article broke this last week about an 11-year-old boy who left his house to live with a man he met on SnapChat. Thankfully, he was taken back home safely. I’ve personally seen people my kids are {real life) friends with post some pretty questionable things on their social media, and their parents don’t even know about it. So, seriously, check out your kids’ social media and know what they’re doing there.
  • At Home. If you are “just” the parent to your child, you’re going to miss out on some major things happening in their life, because at this age, they only want to confide in their friends. Miss out on that, and you’re missing a big chunk of their life that you aren’t privy to now, and may not ever be if you can’t mend the divide. I’ve written about this in other places, but my suggestion is, saddle up to your kids and be their friend. They need you. 

2. Out-of-School Activities. The saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” And to that, I say, “Yes, it is!” When your child has downtime, they are busying themselves with things. What things are they busying themselves with? If you don’t know, that’s a problem. My recommendation is that your kids be involved in outside activities away from the school so they know that the world is much larger than they are. School is an island, and there is a lot of activity on that island that you don’t necessarily want your child to be part of. So, create other spaces that your child can be part of. Two things to consider:

  • Extracurricular Activities. At this age, friends are your teen’s priority. If they don’t have a good friend group in their school, try to create opportunities outside of the school. We all want to feel like we belong somewhere, and I can promise you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if your child doesn’t feel like they belong at their school, they will find somewhere they do feel like they belong (hint, hint: You want them to feel like they belong at home, too – do this through quality time). 
  • Travel. The absolute BEST way for your child to get some perspective is to travel. It doesn’t have to be large, expensive trips. But, what your child needs to know is that school is not everything. Furthermore, this town is not everything. There are different perspectives, different ideas, and different world views. You can see that when you step away from school, away from your little piece of town, and look at the larger world from a bird’s-eye perspective. The mean kids at school mean nothing when your child can see how vast the world really is. 
Jennifer Slingerland Ryan
Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer is a mom of twins who are sweet as sugar, but just hit that tween stage so all bets are off. Her youngest is...a joy. Let's just stop there. Most days you can find her in her office seeing clients, doing laundry, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), Walking Dead or This Is Us. She is a tree-hugging country girl from West Texas who reads, writes, and teaches about human development and families as a hobby and profession. You can read more from Jennifer at her therapy blog, ichoosechange.com