I was getting ready for the office last week when my teenage daughter complained about her hairstyle and how she hated it. I have often seen her getting mad at her hair, murmuring over it as it ‘fails to be her type’. Then, she asks me why she does not have hair like mine or her granny’s.
I smile and tell her, “You can either complain or be thankful.” Then, on that weekend, we watched Pinterest or Instagram and tried new hairstyles. This helped to switch her mood and focus from complaining to styling.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, teenage is referred to as the age from early 13 to late 19. The teenage years are also called adolescence. The years bring many physical, mental, and social changes, and being a parent of adolescent children is challenging. If not handled well, it could be chaotic and can create a complex situation for both parents and children.
In this matter, especially parents need a lot of patience. Once their child turns into a teenager, s/he shows a very different behaviour than before. Earlier, the one who always wanted to cuddle suddenly starts seeking space, gets irritated for no reason, and starts speaking in a loud voice; not to mention their change in taste in clothes, music, and style, which makes parents go gaga. Moreover, children at this age also struggle for their independence and to take control of their life.
In the adolescent years, children go through emotional turmoil and physical changes. The significant events of their early life start hitting, such as growth spurts and puberty. They might also begin developing low self-esteem due to their height, body shape, weight, skin colour, hair type, nose, teeth and daily/weekly bothering pimples, etc as they become very sensitive towards everything.
Teenagers’ styles, including their hairdo, fashion and willingness to try different colours on hair are something Gen X or early millennial parents struggle with. Usually, there is a generation gap between a teenager and his/her parents, which might bring misunderstandings between each other. In this scenario, parents struggle to build a loving and understanding relationship with teenagers because parents are still learning to adapt to such cultural differences in accordance with their appearance and behaviour. However, with my decades of experience in dealing with teenage children and their parents, I have listed a few ideas from my experience being a Nepali parent as well on how parents should treat their teenagers:
Prepare your child for forthcoming physical, mental, and social changes. Get them to read the books related to growth and physical changes. Parents should also read relevant books. Bring these into dinner or lunch conversation to normalise the topic.
2. Seek clarity
Set clear expectations, and remember it should be mutual. Talk about managing situations and handling stress. Provide limits, restrictions, and rewards. Be sure to stick with them.
3. Do not react, respond
Do not react to any situation or incident; listen and discover the issue. Study the behaviour pattern, and when you think it is too much, have your child sit down and talk about it. Help them understand, realise and reflect on their behaviour.
4. Research and prepare
Watch movies, read books on teenagers: There are various teenage movies. Watching those will help you understand the phase your child is going through. Observe what your child is watching on Netflix or social media; it shall be a guideline of what to expect and what to not as a teenager’s parent.
5. Show interest and participate in your child’s activities
Watching movies together, going for weekend cycling or short hikes, preparing your child’s favourite dish, and showing interest in their gossip will allow you a lot of time to be close to your child. Also, parents can timely have small talks and spend time shopping together, visiting a library or your child’s favourite bookstore. Do not pass judgment while you listen.
6. Involve them in sports and co-curricular activities
Children of this age group love to be involved in sports. They show interest in taking part in activities like debate, art, instrument playing or any other programmes that allow them to be social and make friends with a new circle. Sports help children to be organised and disciplined. The other areas help to boost their confidence level which also supports their academic excellence at school.
7. Build trust
Teenage is also majorly about friendships, infatuations, proposals, heartbreaks, sports, taking risks, appearance, relationships, and having fun in their own ways. Giving children books about such issues and having conversations are helpful. Share your own teenage stories so that your child feels comfortable confiding in you. This will also help your child create a trusting bond with you. Tell your child that you unconditionally love them. Surprise them with something that they like and make them feel special. Tell them why they matter. Taking their opinions into consideration when making decisions will boost their confidence.
Remember following these guidelines will not suddenly change your child’s behaviour. Weekends can be the best time for such activities. Teenagers will always be teenagers, but the above steps will help minimise their reaction to a situation and your concerns.