Keeping your child on track during their teen years can be tough, but there are ways to foster that relationship. (Photo by Mark Frohna)
Parenting teenagers brings a unique set of challenges. Members of the Milwaukee Catholic Mamas Facebook group shared their best tips for thriving during the teen years.
Boundary-setting with teens can be challenging. Though they are now on the precipice of adulthood and may have reached their adult height, they have not yet reached maturity. They still need a firm, loving, consistent force in their lives to help keep things on track.
Boundaries in this stage appear in many forms — have you done your homework? No, you can’t stay out until 3 a.m. on a school night. The list goes on. A lot of battles will be fought over things like screen time and family time.
“We have two high schoolers and two middle schoolers. We find that minimizing screen time on phones/iPads curtails a lot of the drama. We also force our kids to have dinner as a family as often as possible. It’s not always completely pleasant, but it’s good for us.“
As a high school teacher, I was told to pick my non-negotiables. Though we can have many guidelines, only three to five hard-and-fast simple rules are recommended. Too many rules can be hard to remember, let alone enforce, and if it’s going to be a rule, it must be enforced each and every time. Choose wisely.
“Communication, communication, communication. I have raised three faith-filled teens into their young adult years. Talk to your kids daily. Many times they are going to share things you don’t like. Listen actively anyways, don’t interrupt, model behavior you wish to see (starting when they are little), remember they have a free will, too, and give them opportunities to choose the right path.”
Teens can tell when the adults in their lives are being genuine. When communicating with your teen, be sure to say what you mean and mean what you say. Make sure that your actions are not conflicting with your words, and be willing to admit and apologize to your teen when you fall short. After all, we want them to be able to own their failings, too.
Prepare yourself to be patient when waiting for responses from your teen. Navigating moods, friends, more challenging classes and all the stresses of being a teen today is tough. When they inevitably lash out at you, do your best to keep calm. Like the tantrums they had as toddlers, these outbursts are not personal, and matching their intensity helps no one. Take a breath, say a quick prayer, relax your posture and speak calmly when they are done. As stressful as having your teen unload on you can be, it beats the alternative: them shutting you out.
“Make new friends, but keep the old; some are silver and the others gold.”
This advice from the Girl Scouts applies both to the teens and their parents. The bonds formed in childhood are strong, and the bonds formed among parents in the trenches of toddlerhood are worth holding onto. The fellow parents who know and love your kids are potent allies. The kids who became friends when your children were younger, and you were better able to control who they hung out with, are likely to have similar backgrounds and values.
Maintaining your relationship with your teen is also crucial in this stage. You want to be sure that they will still come to you when they need you and that they know that you are still their safe place. As strong as the pull can be to show your children your wisdom, remember that, sometimes, it is more important to be kind than it is to be right. A short-term “win” with your teen that damages your relationship is a long-term loss.
Adjust your lenses
“Some of the most important advice I ever got was from an elderly gentleman, a family friend. I was a teenager, and I was telling him how frustrated I was with something about my parents. He did not pick sides, but he did tell me sometimes adults fall into the trap of forgetting how they felt dealing with frustrations that arise for younger people. He said it is very important that as you move through your whole life, when a younger person is telling you about something difficult they are dealing with, that you always stop and remember how you perceived various difficulties, how you felt at their age, before responding. He said make sure you respond through the lens of being younger in addition to using the wisdom acquired with age. I have always worked hard to use that advice, and so far it has been so helpful for me and many younger people I’ve worked with, including my own children.”
Pray with and for your children
Anna Kozlowski, a member of the Brew City Missionaries that minister on college campuses, recommends covering your children in prayer and reminds us that the Good Shepherd will always go after a lost sheep. We can only physically shield our children so much, so we must entrust Our Mother to keep them under her mantle. Other powerful intercessors for teens and their parents include St. Monica, St. Dominic Savio, St. John Paul II and Bl. Carlo Acutis.
Saint making ain’t easy, and you’re never really done. Keep running the race.