Parenting Challenges In Teenage Years

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The principal advises

Parenting teenagers can be – in fact mostly is – a very challenging endeavour. While there is no foolproof recipe for success, following some guidelines and parameters will indeed make most parenting journeys somewhat easier, if not completely challenge-free, a career educator says.

“After more than three decades of being a high school teacher, a principal and parent of a teenager, I know that parenting teenagers can be a challenging journey, especially when they start to pull away and disconnect from their family,” says Sanet Van Rensburg, Principal: Abbotts College Centurion.

She says mutual respect plays a pivotal role in surviving the teenage parenting years.

“Although it is natural for teenagers to seek more independence and establish their own identities, it’s equally important for parents to find ways to stay involved and maintain a strong connection. But how do you stay involved and nurture a healthy relationship with a disconnected teenager?

“The answer is effective communication. Effective communication is the root of any healthy parent-teen relationship. Avoid judgment and criticism and instead, listen actively and empathetically. Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue and show genuine interest in their lives. A simple rule like “no earphones when we are driving to or from school,” can be the start to opening the door to mutual chats.”

Teens will make mistakes (and, as a parent, you will see the red-light flickering), but they sometimes need to take the consequences of their decisions, says Van Rensburg. 

“The important thing is to be there for them.  Do not judge but rather love them unconditionally even though you do not like the decision they made, and rather help them gain self-confidence again. As parents we sometimes think that all questionable decisions are bad, but that is not the truth. All decisions – even bad ones – help teenagers to develop essential life skills.”

Teenagers can be moody and unpredictable, and they may not always be receptive to your attempts at connection.

“Remember that these phases are temporary, and it’s essential to remain patient and understanding. Maintain a consistent, supportive presence in their lives, even when they push you away.  You do not need to say anything; they just need to know that you are there,” advises Van Rensburg.

“Establish clear boundaries and expectations within your household. These guidelines can help teenagers understand their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions. However, it’s crucial to involve them in setting these rules, thus ensuring they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their behaviour.”

Finding the right balance between involvement and intrusion can be tricky, Van Rensburg notes.

“Aim to be present in your teenager’s life without constantly hovering over them. Attend their school events, sports games, or performances, but give them the freedom to socialise with friends and have downtime without feeling monitored.  The first prize will be for them to want their friends to come over to your house for a braai or to chill. 

“The important element is not to be a helicopter parent, but to trust the previous 12+ years that you have invested in your teen’s upbringing and guidance in making the right decision in challenging situations.”

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