Attempting to understand the window of teen life through your child’s eyes is kind of like trying to relax on the porch in the middle of a tsunami. The teen years are a hormone-driven crossroads where your child is trying to navigate the adult world with a teenage mind. While it may be next to impossible to completely understand your teenagers wiring, here are a few of the basics that all parents should understand about their teen:
Friends win. Every time: Friendship is King for Teens
To a teen, their friends are more important than anything. According to Teen Voice friends are what matters most to teens: 86% say having strong friendships was the most important thing in their lives. High school is a great time for your teen to find a group of friends they can identify with. If friends are chosen carefully, they can be a great influence in your teen’s life. According to Teen Toxix, a study by OTX in 2009, “85% of teens say that they are happy with their friendships, and 79% of them believe their BFFs have a positive impact on their self-image.”
For parents, this is important to understand. You don’t want to be the wall between your child and their friends. Instead, make your home a gathering place. Make an investment for sports equipment, video games, rec area, or simply offer free pizza. Create a welcoming atmosphere to show you are willing to slip into the background and let the kids have fun as long as they are at your home. While your food bill might double, the noise level might require some Tylenol and you may end up sleep deprived, but those are all small prices to pay for the benefits.
The Jury Is Still Out: Teens Are Still Figuring It All Out
Regardless of the attitude that your teen has, the jury is still out on what they really believe and who they really are. Teens are generally unsure about themselves and who they are as an independent person; instead their focus is on fitting in. According to the Teen Voice poll, next to the importance of friends, 80% say finding purpose and meaning in their life was the most important thing to teens. Teens are in self-discovery mode. They want to find a place in the world where they fit. Sometimes this is dictated by talents or extra-curricular activities (i.e. sports, arts, etc.) but for kids who might not have an obvious niche, they are looking for a place to belong.
For parents, encourage them to try new things, or make new goals. Leading the way for your child to find approval, success and positive influences is the best way to help your teen find their niche. Encourage each attempt with positive reinforcement.
Teens Need Parents
Although they will most likely never sit down and tell you how much they need you, they desperately want you involved. They want attention, love and acceptance from everyone, including their parents. You can never “over-love” your teenager. This doesn’t mean you encourage and enable negative behavior, but love them regardless. Communication is a great thing, even with a teen who gives little more than one-word answers.
For parents, ask your teen about their activities, school dances, class and friends. Talk to them about what they did, who they saw, how people acted and ask them what they thought of everything, try to make it a conversation rather than an interview. Don’t be judgmental, but simply listen. You might get an eye roll or two, but someday this might open up a well-needed dialog.