This post: 13 things you shouldn’t stop doing when your child becomes a teenager
The teen years are undoubtedly the most challenging for parents and teens alike. But with a little patience, understanding, and a lot of love and grace, those often tumultuous years can be calmer, less stressful and far more enjoyable.
Rather than adopting an entirely new parenting strategy, simply stay on track and keep doing some of the same things you did when your kids were young.
Things that worked.
Things your kids enjoyed.
Things that brought harmony to your family.
Here are just a few things you shouldn’t stop doing when your child becomes a teenager.
13 Things You Shouldn’t Stop Doing
When Your Child Becomes a Teenager
#1 Guiding Them
I’ve heard it a million times before and every time I hear it, I’m baffled. “Oh, you know, my son is pretty independent. Now that he’s a teenager he doesn’t need me anymore.” The fact is, it’s in the teen years that our kids need us the most. It’s a critical time in their lives when they’re gaining their foothold in life, figuring out who they are, and making big decisions that could alter the course of their lives.
Now is not the time to put your parenting on autopilot. That’s not to say you should direct your child’s every move – they need the freedom to figure out a few things on their own. But, your years of life experience could help your teen avert big mistakes. And, your guidance and influence hold tremendous power to positively impact their future.
#2 Hugging Them
Teenagers are fickle. One minute they’re quietly asking for a hug, the next they’re running for cover at the mere thought of you moving in for a quick squeeze or a kiss on the cheek. But, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Be under no illusion – chances are it will have to be on their terms, but every teenager, no matter how moody or fickle they are, can benefit from the gentle touch of his mom and dad.
A backrub after a long day, a fist bump when they head out the door, a hug when they return home, or a high-five to show praise – with a little effort, it’s not too difficult to keep the physical touch alive and well without compromising your teen’s growing need for personal space. (Hint: timing is everything.)
#3 Letting Them Take the Lead
When our kids were toddlers, we were constantly encouraging them to make decisions to gain independence. “What would you like to wear today?” “Would you like to go to the park or play inside with your toys?” “What Disney movie do you want to watch tonight?”
Now that they’re teenagers, we seem to have put the skids on letting them decide. Perhaps because we’re fearful about the potential toxicity and unfairness of the outside world, we put a protective shield around our kids and gently nudge them (sometimes, not quite so gently) to follow a predetermined, safe path we’ve forged on their behalf.
But, we’re not doing our kids any favors. Our kids need to figure out their own path in life without constant interference. They need to stumble and fall and learn how to pick themselves back up. They need to take the lead and we need to willingly hand them the reins.
#4 Tucking Them in at Night
Tucking them in at night might look far different than it did when our kids were toddlers, especially considering that our teens typically hit the sack long after we do. (The truth is, they should be tucking us in at night.) But, even if our kids never admit it, they still love it.
Whether it’s a kiss on the forehead, a warm hug or just spending a few minutes in their bedroom chatting about their day, take a moment before you venture off to bed to make sure your child closes their eyes at night feeling loved and appreciated.
#5 Having Patience When They’ve Had a Bad Day
We expect our kids to be mature, responsible, and capable of managing their emotions. However, study after study confirms that they still have a lot of growing up to do. Their brains aren’t fully developed, they haven’t quite mastered the art of managing their emotions (their brains have a lot to do with that, too) and, if you pay close attention, you’ll find their level of maturity changes like the wind.
So why do we put such high expectations on them? Why do we fault them so harshly when they slam a door or offer up a heavy sigh or an occasional eye roll?
No parent wants to deal with their teen’s crummy behavior day in and day out, but when our generally good kids (who are clearly trying) have a bad day, we should, at the very least, give them a free pass (or two).
#6 Being Excited to See Them
Have you ever noticed the look on a toddler’s face when you smile at them? They’re so incredibly excited to be noticed that their face lights up like a Christmas tree. Imagine what would happen if we treated our kids the same way. Our kids, regardless of how old they are, love to be noticed and they love attention.
When your child walks in the door after school or practice, act excited. Make them feel special. Ask them about their day, what’s new with their friends (remember, their friends are their world), how much homework they have, and what their plans are for the weekend.
Many parents feel that when our kids become teenagers it’s our cue to back off and disengage. However, teenagers need just as much attention and love (if not more) than they did when they were little.
#7 Spoiling Them (a Little)
One of my all-time favorite things to do with my kids is to surprise them. When they were young, I’d leave my girls a new jump rope on their bed so they’d see it when they came home from school. Sometimes, I’d buy my son a new Matchbox car and leave it on his dresser.
To this day, I still go out of my way to surprise them and I still make it a point to spoil them (a little). Even something as little as helping them with their laundry, making their favorite dinner, running an errand for them, or buying them something inexpensive you happened to run across during the day can make your child feel special. A little spoiling, a little attention, and a little “I’m always thinking of you,” can go a long way in building a strong relationship with your teen.
#8 Catching Them When They Fall
Our kids are still learning, growing, figuring out who they are and, consequently, they’re making plenty of mistakes. Knowing they have us on the sidelines ready and willing to catch them when they fall offers them a tremendous amount of confidence.
That’s not to say we should rescue them on every occasion or act as their steadfast safety net when they haphazardly make careless decisions or mistakes. What it means is that they need to know they can count on us to help them get back up, help them learn from their mistakes, and encourage them to move forward.
With every new step they took when they were toddlers, we stood behind ready to catch them, but also ready to tell them they were okay when they fell and to keep trying. Don’t stop offering the same encouragement and support just because your child is nearing adulthood. Be their biggest cheerleader championing them through their ups and their downs.
#9 Giving Them Your Undivided Attention
When our kids were little they wanted our undivided attention 24/7. Unrelentingly chatty and clingy, they never seemed to give us even five minutes to ourselves. Oh, how things have changed. Now that they’re teenagers, we’re lucky if we can get a complete sentence out of them once every three days and they spend most of their time hanging out in their bedroom behind closed doors.
That’s why, when they do come to us, we need to be ready and willing to grab those moments. Put your phone down, stop folding laundry, and make those phone calls later. When your teen comes to you ready to talk, wants to share highlights about their day, or just wants to hang out. Drop everything and do it. Don’t miss a golden opportunity to connect on their terms.
#10 Going on Adventures
Outings to the park, pool days with snacks, sippy cups and floaties, a trip to the local fire station to see the big trucks – when our kids were little we were always planning mini-adventures. Our kids’ craving for adventure hasn’t stopped simply because they’re older.
It might require a tad of encouragement to get them on board initially (teenagers are notorious for bowing out of family activities), but most teens have a hard time turning down a fun adventure.
So, put your adventurous hat on and head out to the hiking trails, go camping for a weekend, venture to the nearest amusement park (warning, they’ll expect you to ride the roller coaster with them), or take a vacation to somewhere they’ve never been. Our kids need a change of pace and a little fun and adventure in their lives. Plus, the one-on-one time (even if they don’t talk a bunch) is a great way to connect and stay close as a family.
#11 Acting Silly
Heads up, parents. Stop being so serious. Trust me on this one. Your teen needs you to let your guard down. Just because your kids are teenagers and nearing adulthood doesn’t mean you can’t get a little crazy, dance in the kitchen, tell stupid jokes, and watch silly YouTube videos together. Your son might tower over you and your daughter’s feet might be bigger than yours, but they’re still little on the inside. They have plenty of serious years ahead of them. For now, let them be little. Let them be silly.
#12 Spending Quality Family Time Together
As soon as our kids hit the teen years (and sometimes even before), their idea of fun shifts. Quite often their friends take center stage and they consider any time spent with the family rather agonizing. Still, as parents, we need to fight for, and in some cases demand, that our kids spend time with the family.
What I’ve found with my own kids is that as long as I give them some latitude in terms of when we spend time together, for how long, and what we do when we’re together, they’re far more willing to be part of it and, much to their surprise, actually enjoy it. The bottom line is, make family time a priority. With a little planning, your kids can have the best of both worlds – friends and family time.
#13 Saying I Love You
Of all the things you shouldn’t stop doing when your child becomes a teenager, this one might possibly be the most important. Our kids are never too old to hear these three little words. Not only does saying “I love you” help build a bond with our kids, it also fosters trust, lets them know they’re valued for who they are (not what they’ve done) and takes away any fear that they’re navigating these hormonal-swinging teen years on their own.
Knowing that your arms are always open also helps them build confidence and reminds them that they’re part of something much bigger – a family that loves them unconditionally – and that’s a powerful and life-changing motivator for our teens who are going through the biggest and most challenging transition of their lives.
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