Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Are there teens in your life? I have been thinking about writing this post for awhile because I am with teens close to 24/7! Why am I qualified to write this? I am not! But, I have 17 year old twin boys and I have been a high school teacher for 26 years.
I personally love teenagers! I think they are fun, funny, sharp, caring, open-minded, but they are also scared, in a state of limbo, dealing with new responsibilities and emotions. I would say that being a teen today may just be harder than ever before. There is so much pressure on them to already know what they want to study, to get the highest test scores possible, to play all the sports and be in all the activities. And, on top of that, think about the social media aspect of their lives. So, before you deal with a teen, I think it’s important to think about these things and come to them with a little more understanding. Now, do I always practice what I preach? No. I have my share of head butting with my kids and my students.
First of all, as a parent, set boundaries. They are not grown up yet and still need you. I might argue that they need you more now than ever. Set age requirements and parameters for social media usage. The kids want boundaries and they like to be able to blame you the parents so they don’t look uncool.
It’s too hard to do school and work a part time job for many kids. Their primary job is student right now. Most of them say they have to work to pay for college, but my bet is that the $100 or so a week is not going to savings and the loss of sleep and time to work on school isn’t worth it. If a teen can put that time towards getting those high grades, the scholarships will pay off far more than the part time job. I am all for summer employment, though!
One of the biggest issues I see with teens is lack of sleep. The teen brain is not ready to go to sleep too early but school start times work against them. The majority of my teens in class and my own kids can’t get more than 6 hours of sleep a night and we all know that isn’t enough at this age. Also, I am amazed at how many kids are allowed to go to concerts or other late night events (sometimes even out of town!) on a school night and then they are allowed to sleep in or just miss the entire next day. That is not an excused absence and the parents lie and say they were sick.
Speaking on this topic, you are not your kids’ friend. They have plenty of friends(hopefully) but they only have two parents. It sucks to say “no” and be the bad guy but you have to sometimes. One of my sons was recently mad at me for not letting him go to a party that started at 9:30 when he had theatre and choral auditions early the next day. Come on parents, why did the party need to start that late? Because I said “no” he was upset and it spurred a long conversation. The next time he asked to do something with that group it was a 9:00 p.m. movie on a Friday that didn’t get out until 11:30. I was able to say “yes” to that.
Listen more than you talk – Gosh this is so hard for me. I have found that if I let my boys come to me and if I don’t throw 20 questions at them they will tell me more. I think teens are like cats – do not approach; let them come to you. Ha! Just kidding, but many of the best conversations occur in the car when you don’t have to make eye contact,too. Look for ways to be one on one with your teen. Also, always start with a positive before a negative comment. I do this in my parent teacher conferences, too. Example: “I really love ____’s enthusiasm, however he needs to save it for the pep rally. In my class, I expect him to act like a civilized human.”
Pick your battles. Does that horrible shirt really matter that much? Does it really matter that he wore that shirt two days ago? Teens are figuring out their style and they have favorites and it’s probably not that big of a deal. Say yes when you can say yes.
Let them email the teachers with questions and take care of their own business. Let them call to make their own hair appointments. In college, you aren’t allowed to contact professors anymore. They need to learn how to do this when they are under your roof. Do not rescue them every time they forget something at home. They have to figure out how to deal with the consequences.
Don’t create roadblocks for success. I have already touched on this but I cannot tell you how hard it is to miss school at the high school level. We have 7 classes a day and so that could mean 7 assignments. If they miss 2 days, that becomes 14 assignments. Help your kids to be at school on time almost every day. Sometimes the school calendar isn’t convenient but I have had many students tell me that their parents are insisting they miss school and they don’t want to. I have also had kids have to miss school to babysit for siblings.
Understand the teen brain and their chemistry to some degree. Teens are very implusive. Sometimes they don’t know why they act the way they do. Remember that they are not fully formed yet.
Keep saying I love yous even when they don’t say it back. I have one son who tells me he loves me multiple times a day. The other finds it much harder. I will often text the I love yous or the I am so proud of yous. Remember that teen language is through texting. I have heard one student talk about the funny gifs their parent sends them and how it makes them feel loved.
Find things to praise and laugh with your teens. They are really fun at this age. They can watch the same movies now and get the more mature humor. Look for stand up comedians on t.v. or take them to a comedy show. They really love music at this age. They are in a constant state of earbuds in ears. Remember how much music helped you as a teen? I wrote lyrics out on all of notebooks.
Try to keep some shred of self esteem for yourself! I almost think there should be workshops for parents of teens or maybe even support groups. I really miss my sweet little boys and the simple days we had. But, I love the men they are becoming. I love my students, too, and cherish keeping in touch with them after they graduate.
What have I forgotten?