What do focus on when parenting teens? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 02-01-2014, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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When my kids were babies, I tried to meet all their needs through breastfeeding, cosleeping, and wearing/carrying. As they grew, I tried to give them as many different experiences as I could. This meant involvement in different types of sports, frequent trips to the zoo and museums, and other community activities.

Now my oldest is 13 and has recently said she feels like she has already "done everything". Activities she has done and places we used to go no longer interest her. She does her own homework, reads on her own rather than with me, and prefers the company of her friends whenever possible.

It got me thinking: its not just about what kinds of things teens are interested in. What do they really need from me at this age? What is my role as a parent at this time?
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#2 of 12 Old 02-01-2014, 12:20 PM
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For teens and pre teens to prefer the company of friends is really normal. It's just one of those things. For my teen I mostly listen. Keep the lines of communication open and keep doing the way I have been.

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#3 of 12 Old 02-01-2014, 02:21 PM
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I think it's sort of child dependent. My DD at 13, didn't seem to need or want much from me. She locked herself in her room and texted her friends. She was still into certain activities but more for social reasons than passion. Around 13.5 she started making some poor decisions and I had to come in as disciplinarian (a new role as she'd always been super self-regulating and together prior to that.) I felt my role was to try and minimize the damage she did to herself during those years. Then, at 15, she got her act together again. Her passions returned. I didn't have to micro-manage anymore. She's now a senior and we are a "college admissions" team lol. We talk a lot about choices and options. She asks me a lot of questions about relationships. There is more of a buddy feel between us that I haven't felt since she turned 13. 


My current 13-year-old is a boy and I feel like I'm the disciplinarian again. He's struggling with organization, lots of missing assignments, emotional outbursts due to puberty, ect. I've recently had to step in and get him back on track. However, I know it'll pass and we'll see what he needs from me when he gets older.

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#4 of 12 Old 02-02-2014, 05:58 AM
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Although my son is 12, I echo the sentiment that it seems to be all about helping him stay organized.  He is in middle school and I used to play games, go for walks, take them places.  But now I drive him to friends (his friends are farther than walking or biking distance), make sure he stays on top of homework.  Oh.. and we still enjoy talking, or playing a game of Magic or sometimes working out.  We did go to the museum this past weekend but instead of him dragging me to see exhibits like my other two did, he looked around near us. He still had a blast.  But my daughters want to play games and go a million places and want me to watch plays they make up.  It's not that way with my son anymore.  It's not really a bad thing.  We do bigger things together now rather than little daily things- like running an obstacle course race with my husband and I.  So I see my role as more of to make sure he has opportunities to develop his interests, to see his friends, to teach him how to stay organized and to trust him with increasing responsibility.  My job is to also be interested in what he is doing, even if I have no interest in his video game, if he tells me about it, I listen.  My son is a bit of an introvert, so peers are important to him, but maybe not as important as they are to others.  

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#5 of 12 Old 02-02-2014, 11:03 AM
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My kids are tweens, but I've found myself transitioning more into a facilitator mode, supporting their activities/hobbies/passions.


And in the case of my daughter, learning when to shut up.  I do not need to respond to every grumpy swipe or baiting attitude she throws out, most of the time she needs me to be calm, set good boundaries, and not escalate.  Not that I am perfect at this, but it's improved things considerably at home.  She started puberty on the early side of normal so just as a lot of her friends are entering into this, she seems to be learning how to put the internal controls on more and more now.


But I am discovering (both myself and in talking to moms of older kids) barring evidence of outside problems, a lot of what you have to learn to do at this age is learn how not to rise to things, to keep your mouth shut until you can respond calmly, and to let a lot roll off your back and not take it so personally when they test their wings a bit.

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#6 of 12 Old 02-02-2014, 12:12 PM
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Independence and life skills.


Everything, really, from how to do all their own laundry to how keep a checking account from bouncing to why to change oil in a car. And lots of other stuff.


I also think that you are edging into a period of time when very frank conversations on a variety of topics that make both parents and offspring uncomfortable are appropriate and necessary. For me, it isn't so much about teaching my kids my values but helping them figure out their own, and helping them make connections between what values they choose for their lives and their actions.


And now that my kids are getting into the "late teen" stage, I'm finding that it was actually easier for them to talk about things like sex and birth control and condoms when they were purely theoretical concepts and no one was dating. :o


Both my kids were about 13 when we made R rated movies OK, and told them that if there were any movies they had heard of and were curious about, we could watch them together (Pulp Fiction was one of their request).  We are very frank about sex and violence now, even though we were really protective of their innocence when they were children. They aren't children now, and I see these few short years left before they leave home as a last chance to help them clarify what they think before they are just off on their own.


We took both our teens to see "Dallas Buyers Club" not long ago and it facilitated really great conversations.


But we don't spend as much time together as when they were kids, and we are aiming for a "family fun activity" once a month rather than every weekend.

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#7 of 12 Old 02-04-2014, 09:23 AM
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My DS is 13.  Being a single mom its important that he has a positive male role model and he gets that at swim club - lots of older swimmers and a great coach.

We homeschool but he too spends much of his time in his room, on his tablet or reading.  He still loves field trips and I wish we did more of them. (Something I'm trying to strive for this year).  He loves to explore new places and learn new things.

He is good with his bank account and has been since he got it 5? years ago, he has a very small side job and makes a few dollars on occassion.

We are talking about university and how even though its 'homeschool' everything still counts, there is a discussion about SAT's etc.

I have celiac so we focus ALOT on nurtition and cooking as well as positive health habits (cross contanimation).  DS has seen me be very sick so he fully understands why our house and kitchen runs the way it does.

I've taught DS how to monitor his asthma meds for refills and put them on auto fill at the pharmacy.  I've taken him with me to the post office (we have a pobox) and how to sign for packages, how to use the key to get smaller packages from the lockers etc and explained why a po box vs house mailbox.


So lots of little things over the past few years that seem to add up to 'lifeskills'.  I guess I'm turning more responsibility over to DS??

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#8 of 12 Old 02-04-2014, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by kythe View Post

It got me thinking: its not just about what kinds of things teens are interested in. What do they really need from me at this age? What is my role as a parent at this time?


I'm in the middle of parenting teens right now. I have four kids: one just past the teen years, one still a tween, plus a 15- and 17-year-old. So I'm at the stage of looking back at what has worked well, and what I haven't managed quite so well, and I'm still trying to learn from all this and do a better job looking forward. I really think the most important thing is to give kids this age opportunities to challenge themselves, make mistakes and learn from them in an environment where support is available, thus gaining confidence in their own competence. Some teens will naturally gravitate to appropriate challenges and risks. Some will over-reach their capabilities or put themselves in positions of unsafe risk -- particularly if they're not supported in taking safer types of risk. Some will hesitate in the face healthy challenge. Each personality style will need a different type of support. 


All the other stuff of parenting continues with teens, of course -- connection, conversation, organizational support, cheerleading, modelling positive relationships, boundaries and values, etc. etc. But I think the big thing that changes, or should change, is that rather than protecting your child from risk one should be encouraging him or her to embrace appropriate calculated risks and take on the challenges of dealing with them. 



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#9 of 12 Old 02-27-2014, 11:54 AM
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I think what our tweens and teens need most from us is a solid, healthy relationship where they feel they can trust us with their feelings and emotions and know that we are always on their side.


So when DD gets some of that "tween attitude", instead of focusing on that, I say "hey, what's going on for you right now?" in a kind and sympathetic tone. You'd be amazed how quickly the attitude drops and the tears or pleas for help follow such an invitation. I bypass behaviour to focus on what's going on underneath. Later, in a good moment, we can address the behaviour, but a teen who is being "mouthy" is a teen with a need that is not being met. 


If I find myself scolding my daughter I stop and have a "do-over". Nobody likes to be spoken to that way, and I find that this brings out the worst in her own behaviour as a result. 


I choose my battles very carefully and as rarely as possible. Most of the time, I can get her to do what I want by asking her to help me come up with a solution to the problem. I don't use punishment. It was important when she was younger not to do so, but even more important now. Because punishment is about power and promotes power struggles and tweens and teens are desperately trying to find their own power, which is why I think for many parents these years are the most challenging.


Mostly, I believe punishment creates an "us vs them" attitude where your child considers you Part of the Problem, rather than the solution. 

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#10 of 12 Old 02-27-2014, 12:01 PM
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I also wanted to mention Dr. Gordon Neufeld's work on attachment. Many of you are probably familiar with this as it relates to young children, and I followed it myself when my kids were little. One part of this involves the idea of an "attachment cup" and young children come to you to "fill their cup", say when they are sick and get clingy, or when a toddler comes over to nurse for a few seconds and then gets up and goes back to what he was doing, or when older children want you to come play with them, etc.


But now that DD is getting older I'm finding that, unlike when she was young, she does not often initiate such "attachment moments" and I realized (after attending a Neufeld talk recently to refresh myself) that what has changed is that *I* need to be the one to make sure those moments happen regularly throughout the day. I will take a moment to come over to her and she what amazing thing she is drawing or working on right now, ask her to tell me about it. Or sometimes I'll just walk up and give her a big hug and tell her how proud I am of some thing she did recently. We sometimes go out for coffee (hot chocolate) just the two of us and talk about whatever she feels like talking about. Or we go for a bike ride together. 


I can see how much she really appreciates these things, and how much closer and smoother it makes our relationship. But if I didn't make the point of initiating these things I risk getting disconnected from her, and having her seek that connection among her peers (Neufeld's theory about peer-orientation). Peers are great and friendships are important but they should not replace the attachment relationship that kids need with their parents. 

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#11 of 12 Old 02-28-2014, 06:08 PM
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Piglet, that's a great point about attachment, and one that I've found true with my 16 yo. The more effort I make to connect with her on her level, and in ways that are meaningful to her, the happier and more centered she appears ... and the more confident and independent she is. Kind of exactly the same as my 4 yo -- just doing different things! And you're right that sometimes my teen doesn't come to me when she needs that fill-up. I have to make the time to go to her. It really matters when my husband does it, too. I feel like I can occasionally see her visually brighten after she spends a little one on one time with us.

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#12 of 12 Old 03-03-2014, 09:09 PM
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i want to second what others have written above.


this is how "I" look at it. 


i have the same philosophy since dd was born and will continue till the end. my greatest focus is her emotional wellbeing. because of that i think my dd needs me way more than she did even as a baby. 


what that means is as others have said v. subtle actions. it means less time spent together but the time spent together is jam packed - either silence or 'short speak'.


i am not exactly sure what you are looking for. ways to spend more time with your child? if so then no i would not go look for reasons to spend more time with your child. esp. if this is originating from you. 


ways to meet their needs? this is HUGE this time. they may not show it, but they need your support so badly. but your support should look v. nonchalant. dd acts like she's not really paying attention to waht i say but by golly she sure does. and i keep things simple and pay her compliments as passing remark without drawing too much attention to it. 

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