Born and bred a British, Shamima, 15, is all about creativity and self-expression. She wishes to pursue a career in Medicine and pursue her interests in poetry, fashion, writing and maybe in the distant future, property development.
The best relationships are like a two-way highway. A healthy relationship will have free flowing traffic in both directions, not just one. If you are in a relationship that is all giving, with no receiving, you would be tempted to stop giving.
The teen-parent relationships are the same way. The only difference is that the teen-parent relationship is unbreakable, you cannot just dump your mum (even though sometimes it might feel like we want to). Your relationship, however dysfunctional, is permanent and in the long run we want to keep it that way!
As a parent, you might wonder: So where did it all go wrong?
That’s your first mistake. Refrain from looking back over the past, rather look ahead. Times are changing, people are changing and teens are in a very dynamic point of life, they are changing all the time. Let’s look at how we can improve the situation?
Ah, but that requires sacrifices on either side and we’re not always prepared to do that.
What both teens and parents often don’t realize is that you cannot hope to have perfection in a relationship and it is impossible to eliminate all the negatives.
Parent example: One of the things that might really irritate you is that your teen stays out late at night which has you worried sick. To remove this irritation you refuse to let them out after dark and have them sit in and do homework or something constructive.
For you: peace of mind
For teen: losing out on time with friends/time to relax, enjoy, unwind. Unfortunately, when they stay home they often get angry and sulky and they can’t help thinking of the 101 places they’d rather be (making it difficult to do a decent piece of work anyways!) This also makes them angry at you.
In this situation, one of you gets their way completely and the other loses out – completely.
What choice do I have? I hear you cry. There are a few options to make this situation a two way highway and not a one lane road. They might seem a bit hard at first, but it gets easier with practice – if you are willing.
Let’s use the previous example with the teen and the parent.
A Parent’s Top Priority Concerns:
1. Trouble teen may get into (on own account)
2. Trouble teen may get into (afflicted by others)
3. The crowd teen will be with
4. Loss of sleep
5. Incomplete schoolwork
6. Loss of quality parent-teen time
A Teen’s Top Priority Concerns:
1. Missing out on the fun
2. Not meeting up with friends
3. Quality time to unwind (get away from work or/and parents!)
To withdraw teen from going out completely is not an option, as we have discussed earlier. So how do you ease this dilemma? So some of each party’s concerns are met.
Point 1: Trouble teen may get into (on own account)
To be frank, if you are worried about your teens behavior you obviously don’t trust them. Now that’s not exactly criminal – if you can back your argument, it’s common knowledge that teens tend to be reckless, what you have to realize, though, is that just because you caught them at it once, twice maybe three times does not mean that it is lodged in their character.
Secondly, you do not see your teen as being responsible, or capable of making responsible decisions. Now I am not pointing fingers at anyone but it must be said, ‘smart decision making’ is a skill to be taught to growing teens by parents, it may mean giving them a choice between A and B (an unconditional choice) and then outlining to positives and negatives of each and then leaving them to it. It might be hard to imagine but teens do have a moral conscience of heir own, allow them to exercise it and remember you won’t be there for them all their lives telling them which direction to head, what you can do, however, is give them best possible start to prepare them for adult life.
This leads to my next point. For a teen to make smart decisions they need to know the facts and figures and all the gory details of challenges they may face in life, of course you cannot be expected to provide them with everything, but at least the basics on which they can later develop on with time and experience. In other words, talk to them! It can be your own experiences, good/bad decisions you’ve made in life, things that you have learnt, or advice you have been given. Word of caution: do not exhaust your teen with a story every time something comes up, you may eventually find them reluctant to listen. We’re talking about being ‘open and honest’ here, if you haven’t grasped that already.
Point 2: Trouble teen may get into (afflicted by others)
Now this, you ought to worry about. Other than ‘stay within a group’, ‘call a cab, don’t walk at night’, ‘don’t go to the most secluded of places where no one can see you’ unfortunately you can’t do much about it.
What you can do, however, is take precautions. Mobile phone, common routes, arrange pickup and drop off, talk to parents of friends so you can make sure there are several pair of eyes and ears rather than your lone pair, you can also share pick up/drop off duties so the whole burden doesn’t rest on your already loaded shoulders.
It would be very useful to know where they are going, and maybe for you to do a little research of your own if you are not familiar with it already, you should know what goes on there and what sort of people are regular goers.
Point 3: The crowd teen will be with
Well, first of all, teens prefer to hang out with their close friends and secondly, they don’t usually welcome others into their group and don’t saunter off talking to strangers (safety of the pack). It’s more fun to party with your friends rather than strangers, because with strangers it really feels like you’re the only person there and teens don’t have nearly as much courage as you give them credit for. So by crowd, you would mean friends.
However horrifying it sounds, you ought to meet them, and not just meet them but get to know them individually, who their parents are and what they are like as a person. Remember, your teen’s friends mean an awful lot to them. That would also require you to put your best smile on (genuine, preferably) and welcome friends over regularly, let them be comfortable around you, you may find you like them more than you thought you could.
Meeting the parents is, again, essential. Just as you are worried about your teen, they will have more or less the same worries about theirs. As well as the advantages mentioned earlier, you may find yourself some new friends.
Point 4: Loss of sleep/incomplete school work/loss of quality parent-teen time
I’m putting these three together as I have a similar approach to them.
Loss of sleep does affect you mood and you mental ability so it is important that teens get enough of sleep. Staying out all night is not a responsible thing to do, especially at such a young age but staying out some of the night is somewhat more acceptable, wouldn’t you say.
Staying out some of the night every night, however, does not go down well, night outs should be reserved for say, Saturday nights (once a week).
That means your teen will have every other night to complete their homework and if you’re still concerned then have them finish off the days work before going out.
Now comes to your own quality time with your teen. Although you’re both in and out the house most of the time you never really get to have a proper chat where you’re relaxed and not thinking about something else. Both you and your teen should pick a day where you can shelve everything else (or as much of everything else as possible) and do something you both enjoy together. It could be cooking/baking, a sport, shopping, watching a movie/film or even doing a little cleaning (you get the point), but you have to both agree on it. And if you can’t, compromise: parent’s choice one day, teen’s the other.
So now you’d have your peace of mind and your teen won’t be missing out on fun nights with their friends – a good balance is what you ought to try and achieve. Which does not mean to say that you’ll always settle at an equilibrium, no, there will be times when the scales are heavily tipped to favor one side but you should try your best to ensure you both gain a little if not a lot.
At the end of the day it all comes down to compromises, however grueling. You may be the one in charge but that doesn’t mean your teen doesn’t object. Relationships aren’t about one person dominating the other; it’s about people getting on harmoniously. Yes, it is hard work but if it means you and your teen have a better, happier relationship, I’d say it’s worth it.