Help to navigate teenagers in this time

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Top Tips for Living with Teenagers

As we come into the last term of school it is a big change for many of our young people. In a normal year they would be thinking about moving up in to a new school year, New school or sixth form and college.

But  it's not a normal year.

Our young people have been through a massive trauma: living through this pandemic, being separated from friends, having their routines thrown into disarray. Many of them would have never remembered spending this much time with their own family and for some those family settings may not have been ideal. They have watched the adults in their life deal with trauma and some may have had to step in and be the adult or lead in their families. On top of all of that they will have seen death around them in numbers they could never have imagined and maybe some of that death has been very close to home.

We can help our young people bounce back from this time.

I am a parent of three grown ups and I was a youth worker for many years. I do not pretend to be the expert in young people, trust me there are none. Time has taught me that no one knows my children like I do, (and that is probably the same for you) but also that wisdom about my children has often come from those who walked ahead of me.

So here are some simple tips (from others and my own lived experience) that I picked up that might help.

I always find the best things to do with tips is read them and then apply what applies. Hope it helps

Be a good listener.

There is very little that is not important in what your young person says. From the little things like who they sat with on the bus, to the big stuff of relationships.  Show an interest in what seems trivial and they will soon get onto what you think is the big stuff

Be consistent

Everything is changing around them daily, friendships, rules, life can feel very unstable at this time. Be the one that is the same. When I give my word about something it's important to my young person that I stick to it. They know they can trust me. I want to be consistent in love, attitude, temperament.  I love when I hear my children talk about me and say what I would or wouldn't do in a situation because they know me so well.

Show love

Sometimes your young person doesn't want to talk or listen, often because they feel they are already overloaded with "stuff". Show them you love them, that might be a chocolate cake, a pat or rub on the back, a quick hug, an encouraging word. 

Don't expect something back. Do it just because you can. Our adult children often talk about how much these "silly" gestures really meant to them in tough times, when they were working out their complex emotions.

Don't expect them to be like you.

God made us all unique. Your young person is themselves and that's ok. Don't expect them to react like you to stuff. Just because they don't hug back, doesn't mean they don't like the hug.

Remember how excited you were when they were little because they were so unique? Find ways to celebrate that. Look for them in them, not you.

Keep their lives private

Does your young person want you to sprawl their life across social media? From a young age we decided not to share our kid’s life with the world, for the simple reason they might not like it when they're older. It was tough when we thought something was really funny. If we did share, we asked permission first. Same applies now, we ask first. No naming and shaming, no jokes at their expense, if they don't want to share it, it stays at home.

Accept their friends

When I was 15, I thought that my friends were the only people in the world that "got" me. Our children often think  the same. Their friends are their family. When you reject them, you reject a big part of their lives. You don't have to like them to accept them. All of our children's friends are welcome in our home and we make sure they know that. Our house was often full of teenagers who stay for dinner and sometimes stay for days. They are part of the tribe.

Don't take yourself too seriously.

Laugh lots. Life outside of your walls is serious, intense and sometimes very scary. Make your home a refuge from all of that. A place of laughter.

If you ask me a key characteristic of our family, I would say we laugh at ourselves a lot. If we get it wrong, we can say sorry and laugh about it.  The result is we laugh a lot and sulk very little.

Invite others in.

There are lots of people in our family, our children have lots of people they have adopted as aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters. I like to think we are more of a tribe than a family. All these people have bought something unique to our family and many have become valuable confidants to our teenage children. It has been wonderful through the years to know that if my children didn't want to talk to me about something then they had other trusted wise adults who were there for them and were willing to listen.

I have also learnt loads about parenting from my childless friends as well as those who have personal experience of parenting. On top of that our children would say they have benefited from the young people we have mentored over the years, who have been a part of our lives.

Definitely a win win.

Recommended reading

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Young gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson

I will not be erased by Gal-dem

You are a Champion by Marcus Rashford

When Life Breaks : Raising Children During Divorce  by Tanzania Davis-Black



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