Just got off the phone with my sons who are away at a Summer Leadership Program. I love having all my children under the same roof but they are growing and living their lives. I have really bad separation anxiety so it has not been an easy 48 hours. LOL!.A good parent knows when to step aside and let children be who God has called them to be. Easier said than done, with my sons away, I am constantly thinking about them. Are they safe? Are they making the right decisions?
I had my first son at 22 and was convinced I would be a cool mom…and I am (I was). I understand Social Media, I know the Migos, I am on Snapchat and I even have a tattoo to show my street cred. LOL!
It’s been a jolly ride but recently it dawned on me that I can’t keep up. It is really difficult to listen to the music they like or stay active on Snapchat. I have zero interest in watching Stranger Things, I will never learn to play Fortnite and also not interested in watching Anime. I know most of their friends but its pretty much what they share with me and honestly, I feel uncomfortable going through their phones. As a parent, how do I keep track and engage my teen boys if I am not willing to be part of their world 24/7? And even if I am, what happens when they go away for 2 weeks? or to College?
There is so much going on in the world that parents have to be more direct and extremely intentional in their parenting. Our children’s minds are filled with so much content from different sources and everything we teach our children is being challenged daily by their friends, classmates, on TV shows and YouTube channels.
For parents who are able to track their kids 24/7, breaking news- Teenagers are College Bound, do you plan to go to college with them? Yeah, that’s my answer too. The fact that teens are on their way out makes parenting them different. First of all, there is a sense of urgency, you want to get it right before they turn 18 or head off to college. Also, you have to be more logical when you communicate with teenagers. They are actually smart now, having acquired critical thinking skills and can see through our non-logical explanations
So below are 5 tips that seem to be working for me as I raise my teenage boys (17 and 16 years old):
It is important that family values are clearly communicated. Family values are the foundation for any family. Your religion plays a big role in establishing family values. I think it is important that family values align with your faith. For me, I am always able to refer my children to the Bible when I am tired of talking. That said, do all Christians (or any other religion) have the same family values? No! Parents need to customise family values rooted in their faith and culture; and share these values with children from birth. Family values should be understood, discussed and even debated in the family.When your teen fully understands your family values, you are confident of their behaviour and actions outside the home. It is important to me that my children know who they are in Christ, appreciate their culture and continue positive legacies passed on from Dad and Mum.
Consistency is key in raising children and necessary with Teens. Teenagers will try to wriggle out of situations, convince parents they are old-fashioned, throw teenage tantrums and even be on their best behaviour to get you to change your mind. Stand your ground, be firm and consistent. I won’t give a warning if I don’t plan to follow through. I try to be consistent with my teens but truth be told sometimes, I flip the script. LOL! When parents are consistent in their reactions and consequences, children know what to expect. Being consistent requires patience but it helps establish a healthy relationship with your teenagers. As a parent, set the standards and be consistent with your expectations; gradually it becomes a lifestyle.
Teens need to know that for every action there is a consequence. There is so much in the news about past incidents haunting people. I tell my sons it will be worse when they are older because of all the crazy stuff teens post online. It is important that teens know and understand the consequences of their actions. Even if as parents, we are not always consistent with correcting them, the law remains the same. “I’m sorry” “I won’t do it again” will not solve every problem. Personally, I am not a fan of #YOLO and #LivingYourBestLife because many take it out of context, it has become some form of license to do what gives you immediate gratification without considering future consequences. By all means, live your life to the fullest but please put a thought to it at all times. I literally plead with my sons to think it through, WWJD …then act.
So like I said earlier, I am a cool Mum. My kids tend to test my coolness so I have learned to establish boundaries. I tell them – “I am not your friend” rather “I am your mother who is friendly”. LOL. Don’t mess with me. Teenagers are known to push limits and boundaries, which can be frustrating to parents but it’s really part of their growth and maturity process. Teens especially 16+ see themselves as adults but they are children with limited experiences and need guidance. Don’t curse around me, greet me properly, when you are called- please answer “Yes Mum” and same goes to all elders and persons in authority. Boundaries are important to me because I have to firmly establish that I am in charge. The tricky part in setting boundaries -its important that teens know they are loved, protected and it is always in their best interest.
This is so important. Parents should have a good rapport with their teens, this is really non-negotiable. If our teens are not speaking with us, trust me, they are speaking to someone else and Google will become their life coach. It is really hard to objectively listen to your children, not judging and being open but sometimes we need to realise that they are evolving into adults. I had to learn that my children are not obligated to have the same thought pattern with me. There have been many times when my sons have had alternate views on politics, social issues, trending topics and life generally. I am learning to respect their opinions and gradually guide them back to base if I feel they are off track.
Working, Volunteering, Sports and School Clubs have always given my sons a sense of self and responsibility. As a teenager, there are so many distractions to deal with even within the home. Truly, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop so we strive to stay engaged in our home. I challenge my sons to participate in as many programs as possible. Less free time works for my boys, no time to fool around and get into trouble. I pray that they find purpose and passion earlier than I did and staying engaged is a great way to know what they enjoy doing. From experience, when my sons are fully engaged and enjoying the activity, it has positive effects all around.
Finally, like I mentioned earlier, teenagers are children, pay no mind to their physique, smart talk or tech skills; they need guidance, they need love and they need validation. I believe that parents have a duty to guide their children to become responsible adults and I take my role as a parent seriously. Raising my sons is an important responsibility and absolute priority.
P.S. I am a divorced Mom so I’ll blog about that soon.