A Dad’s Guide How To Stay Engaged With Your Teenager
By Derrick Johnson
If you are like most parents, you dread the idea of your child turning into a teenager. The horror stories of no longer being in control or being followed as the adult must have reached you. Whether it affected you or not is immaterial because when children become teenagers, it’s a no-holds barred situation where anything can happen. You see, it’s not just hormones or puberty you will be challenged with but also peer pressure from friends at school, TV, news media, the Internet, and many other forces.
Not to get you rattled unnecessarily but according to studies and analysis done by the National Conference of State Legislatures, teenagers are at the highest risk of feeling depressed to the point of committing suicide. The figures in their analysis show that 19.3% of high school teenagers seriously thought about killing themselves while 14.5% actually made suicidal plans. This translates to about 900,000 teenagers who suffered from depression and reached a point of planning their death. Fortunately, parents, teachers, and friends stepped in and helped a majority of them. Unfortunately the 3rd leading of death among teenagers is suicide according to www.kidshealth.com. Your role as a parent is critical at this stage. Here are ways you can reach out and stay connected to your teenager:
Recognize Your Teenager For Who He/She Is
Your teenager is unlikely to be like you 100% or even 80%. There will be marked differences especially with desires and motivation. Accept that your teenager is an individual with a mind and possibly dreams that are different from yours. Your teenager could also be mulling his future or in the mode of wanting to enjoy as much of their time as a teenager as possible.
Secondly, don’t compare your teenager to the children of friends or even celebrities. This will create a gap between you and your child.
Thirdly, expose your teenager to different experiences so he can find out what it is they like or don’t like. These activities could be sports, arts, academic challenges, different environments and people. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this, but you will have to invest time.
Don’t Ride Roughshod
Do you know the number one complaint of teenagers? It is that “My parents don’t understand me!” Fortunately what most dads forget is that you were once a teenager now-turned parent. Your job now is to remember your days as a teenager and try to empathize with your teen. This means to accept that your teen needs space away from you. You need to pick the right time to discuss things with them. Nagging is not going to get you far. For instance, if you want your teenager to be the next soccer star in his school, don’t talk soccer every opportunity you get – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while watching TV together, while in car together, and before sleeping – get the picture?
Stay In Control But …
As a parent, you have to stay in control of your teenager but to do this; you need to start treating them less like a child and more like a maturing adult. Instead of demanding, explain. Instead of telling them what to do and how to do it, give them options and let them decide. For example, asking your teenage to clean their room sometime today instead of right now will be less stressful for both of you. In short, set goals and a time frame then let him know he has the responsibility to make it happen. If they fails several times, then you can put your foot down and take more control over his time management.
You will also have to maintain control over the following:
- Media influence, including social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter
- Internet use
- Peer pressure
- Possible exposure to substance abuse
Maintaining control does not have to be done aggressively. You can still gently steer your teenager in the right direction or use some parental tricks to get him to follow you. For example, instead of allowing him to spend his time out of the house, be house-friendly for teenagers so he can have his friends come over instead. You can do this by having food in the fridge, a game room, among others. However, be aware that there is a thin line that can easily be crossed for abusing this situation so you need to stay on top by being around but not being visible.
Go Out Together
Talk about your days as a teenager and the problems you’ve encountered; discuss news and current affairs; and most importantly, find out how your teenager is doing with friends, enemies, and school. Learn to read body signals and non-verbal communications because often teenagers are in a state of contradiction. They don’t want to talk but they want you to know; they don’t want to spend time with family but they want to come home when in trouble. Going out just the two of you once a week will be rough the first few times but hang in there, you’ll soon discover that your teenager has a lot of good ideas, a desire to be loved, and a burning need to know that you are there for them.
Finally, be involved in their daily routine. Watch their games or eat dinner together; listen to them and encourage them to talk, and talk to them with the kind of respect you would want to get back yourself.