Parenting toddlers comes with difficulties. The years between newborn and kindergarten have their challenges, many of which take a physical toll on parents. But for many, those days pale in comparison to the emotional roller coaster of parenting teens. The experience of the college application process and adjusting to the empty nest when the kids leave home can be difficult, to say the least.
Parents of young children have many resources to turn to for support and advice. Parents of teens and college kids have few places to go for help. Parents of teens may be reluctant to compare notes with other parents, as they may have done on playgrounds and at kindergarten pickup when their children were small. While toddlers come with universal problems — potty training, separation anxiety, sleep issues, ear infections — teen problems are much more varied, more personal and, sometimes, much more consequential.
Grown & Flown — How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults is a book that has answers to many questions that parents of older kids have and may not feel comfortable discussing with friends and neighbors. The authors, Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Heffernan, share their personal experiences, along with those of experts and other parents.
Some of the topics covered with advice and wisdom include:
Things to do when your teen is barely speaking to you.
One way to coax them to talk is to take them shopping. Getting out of the house and buying a new T-shirt or shoes can relax tensions between parents and kids. Anything that can break the pressure is a good idea.
Am I overparenting?
If you are wondering if you are being too intrusive or flying that helicopter a bit too often, you probably are. For example, referring to your teen's activities in the “we” form is something to watch out for. As in: “We are auditioning for the school musical.” This is a good indication that you are overparenting.
The stress of high school.
You may be surprised at how anxious and worried your high school student is, compared with when you were a teenager. Creating a stress-free zone at home is crucial for teens who need to decompress and leave the sometimes-difficult days behind them. Being gentle with your overwhelmed teen and allowing him or her some downtime to listen to music, watch endless reruns of a favorite TV show or even play video games can make all the difference.
Helping your brokenhearted teens.
Sooner or later, everyone gets their heart broken, and for teens, especially, it can be horribly painful and upsetting. Parents may be unsure of what to say or do to comfort their understandably miserable children. One of the best suggestions from Grown & Flown is to remind them that they won't feel this way forever — it will get better. While they may not believe you when you tell them this, a parent's words can have a significant impact not only for this broken romance, but for those that may come in the future, too.
Talk about sex — it's important.
Parents must talk to their teens about sex. You want to make it clear that sex is a normal, healthy part of a mature relationship, as long as you choose to engage in it freely and willingly. Both boys and girls must hear this message loud and clear from their parents. Understanding what “no” means is as important as understanding how to respond to “yes."
How parents can preserve their sanity during the college admissions process.
It's a safe bet that college applications and the subsequent notifications of admissions or denials will be some of the hardest days of parenthood. There isn't a lot parents can do to help with any of it, and it signals the end of childhood for your soon-to-be college freshman. Both of these facts make this experience even more emotional.
Parenting teens is filled with moments that both bring great joy and cause self-doubt and worry. Finding calm and reasonable voices, like those in the Grown & Flown book, amid the craziness is a huge help during the teen years. You can find the book here.
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