Nothing says hardship like learning how to parent a teenager. They know everything, as parents we know nothing, and communication is at an all time low. It does not have to be this way, though.
There is hope for their futures as we prepare to let them fly from the nest out into the big bad world. But, where do we start? With four teenagers in the house, I've had to learn quickly on the job!
Social Media: yay or nay?
I think it's fine to let my teenagers have a social media account as long at they've proved that they're using it for good. We've also imposed some limits.
First, and most importantly, no images of any illegal activity. If they are drinking underage, posting pictures while wearing less clothing than appropriate, you make them nix the account. There has to be trust between parents and kids.
My kids accept and trust the fact that we WILL check their activity and we need to trust that we have raised them to have good judgement on what is acceptable to post online.
Alternatively, you could always hack their account and post that picture of them when they were still wetting the bed at age 9. Some lessons are harder to learn than others but that one gets the point across. This is extreme, but I do know someone who did it to their teenager!
If they are using the account responsibly, there is no reason to keep them from having Facebook or Instagram.
Being able to communicate with our kids is the most important thing we can do. But, how much communication is too much?
I am the first person to admit that my eyes have glazed over when my daughter starts talking about her friends and how they're mad at one another or they went shopping and bought new Uggs. But I pretend to be interested in the mundane so that she is comfortable coming to me with the serious. I want to know who she is dating, what they are doing, and yes, even if there is sex involved.
I work hard to keep the lines of communication open so that my kids know that there is nothing they can't tell me, nothing I can't help them handle when they think it's too much to handle.
I want to know what they're friends are doing because most people know that kids are followers. They can keep it a secret about what store they shopped in; but definitely can't keep it a secret if one of their friends is in trouble and needs help.
The world of electronics
Smartphones are everywhere. Most teenagers have one and it's easy enough to conceal so that it can be considered the worst enemy of the parent.
You heard of people reading their teenagers text messages but I don't think that's really the best way to go. Do you really want to spend your day reading through page after page of "k?"
We allow them to use their phones, never at the dinner table, and in limited amounts while at home.
If they start acting suspicious, like showering without being prompted, you may want to do a little bit of snooping. Again, unless they give you a reason not to trust them, assume that they are being the little angel that you know you raised.
Who, What, When, Where, and How
My children know that these are questions I expect them to answer promptly when they're going out with friends.
- Who are you going with?
- What are you going to be doing?
- When will you be home (actually, mostly I set that time)?
- Where will you be going?
- How are you getting there and back?
We can't stop our kids from living life but we never stop worrying about them or protecting them. They should be happy to volunteer this info if they expect to be let out of the house.
Teenagers are an odd category of human being. But with four in the house, we're getting through the years. We find that if we communicate with them on their level, that we give them space and set boundaries, we're hopeful of standing a great chance of being successful into raising them into adulthood.