You probably read the title of this article and thought, Live peacefully with teens?? Are you kidding? And I get that. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to communicate with them, get them to comply to your wishes – heck, to even understand them. But as it turns out – and I know you’ll find this hard to believe – they’re people, just like us, and they can be understood if we just try to see the world from their eyes.
So here are some insights that may help you navigate the parenting waters a little more easily.
- Ever been the victim of hormones or a really bad mood? Imagine being in a body ruled by ever changing hormones that really can’t be controlled. So much is changing in teen bodies on any given day that they really are victims, so to speak, of their biology and chemistry. They are literally watching their bodies changing. They are feeling emotions they’ve rarely felt before. Their brains are not yet fully developed, so they can’t make sense of it all. They are whirlwinds of emotion. It’s no wonder, then, that you never know what you’re going to get when you ask them a question or tell them they need to do something,
- They crave peer acceptance at all costs. Because they have such little control over their bodies and the changes they are experiencing, they are more self-conscious than at any other time in their lives. Combine this discomfort with an intense desire to be accepted, to be like everyone else, and you will begin to understand the level of frustration they feel pretty much every day of their lives. Who do you think gets the brunt of these emotions? That would be you, mom and dad.
- They are stressed more than any other previous generation. Psychologists and therapists report that the number one teen issue they address is stress. Increasingly competitive sports teams, academic programs, and college acceptance criteria keep teens nervous and agitated. Many feel that no matter how hard they work or how busy they stay, it’s never enough. Many worry about letting you down. And many keep these fears to themselves, exacerbating the problem even further.
- They are expected to make life-changing decisions. Think about who you were at age 15. What did you know about the world? How well did you know yourself? Could you project who you would be 20 years later? How accurately did your 15-year-old goals align with your current life? Despite our 20/20 hindsight, for some reason we still expect teens to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives and to have the discipline and focus to reach all their goals. Of course, we can help them do this, but it’s an awful lot of pressure to put on someone who is in many ways still a child.
- They are distracted by any number of moral choices and get most of their advice and life lessons from the media. They have grown up in a world where sex is a given in every relationship, drinking is lauded, lying is expected, and loyalty to friends is more important than saying or doing the right thing. Moral ambiguity is the standard. And sadly, they spend more time learning from celebrities than they do from the people who matter.
Knowing all this about your teens should give you an understanding of what they face and struggle with on a regular basis. It won’t make them any less moody or any easier to live with, but it should help you to see that what they dish out is a culmination of all of their struggles. It’s not personal, mom and dad. Your job is to give them tools to help them through these struggles, to recognize when they need guidance, to offer them support, to let them know that you’re always there for them. If you can do those things, you’ll carve a path that will eventually lead you out of the woods and into clarity.
There is a slide that is associated with summer, and it has nothing do with fun. The summer slide refers to the dip kids tend to make during the summer months when they are away from school and the daily habits of studying and learning. I wouldn’t call it an epidemic, but it is by all means real, and for many kids, the summer slide can be devastating to their academic success.
Who’s hit hardest? Interestingly, the summer slide can affect a wide range of students in various ways.
- Kids who already struggle in school. These students depend on daily practice and a designed curriculum to continually progress and avoid backward steps. When the routine and learning expectations are removed, their mind relaxes and material they previously knew slips away, sometimes as if they had never learned it. If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you know that regular daily practice enforces your knowledge. But a couple months without that reinforcement can wipe away everything you have learned. The same happens with most students, but kids who rely on external forces to stay focused are hit especially hard.
- Kids who are making steady progress toward a goal. If your kids know where they’re headed and what they want to see for themselves in the future, they’ve likely counted on teachers, coaches, school counselors, and other mentors in their school life to help them march steadily toward their goals. Remove those support systems, and kids oftentimes lose their focus and sometimes even their drive. Teens balk at receiving counsel from their parents but the same advice coming from a third party – especially one they respect – sounds different to them. They tend to be more accepting of mentorships originating outside the home, and losing those mentors can stall their efforts toward their goals.
- Kids who are doing great in school. Imagine you have committed to healthy eating and for 9 months you’ve adopted and maintained a more positive lifestyle. You’ve lost weight and are feeling great, and you think you’ve got this beat. Then you depart on a two-month cruise, replete with 24-hour buffets and a relaxed attitude. What are the chances you’ll stay true to your committed health path? And how much work will you have to do to get back on that path when you return?
- Kids who seem aimless or without a view of the big picture. These kids complete assignments or study for the short term – the grade or the GPA – versus studying for lifelong learning. They count on external motivators such as due dates, reminders from others, and direction given by adults to outline their days and keep them moving forward. During the summer when these expectations disappear, so does their progress.
If any of these sound like your children, I encourage you to seek out opportunities to engage and educate your children year-round. Heads up, though, kids have a hard time accepting their parents as teachers and will automatically resist doing work during the summer months. That’s why I recommend a great tutor or summer program catered to your children’s needs and interests. Both serve unique purposes. Tutors can work with your children according to their specific areas of weakness and learning styles. They can be a refreshing change from the traditional classroom and build relationships with your children that are supportive and encouraging. Summer programs offer another way to learn: collectively, as part of a social group, and usually in a hands-on, fun way that makes learning seem less like academics and more like exploration and discovery. Both of these methods of staying fresh work wonders and turn the summer slide into a huge summer step in the right direction.
Looking for personal tutors and help with keeping your kids on track? Check out Teenager Success 101 for a special summer session that meets your kids wherever they are. Go to www.TeenagerSuccess101.com for more information!