How to Raise Terrific Teens

I don’t want to suggest for one minute that I’m the almighty Oracle when it comes to bringing up grounded teenagers. Oh no. Nor am I Supernanny standard or some kind of controversial expert like baby ‘training’ guru, Gina Ford. I would like to call myself the Teen Whisperer – but if you’re bringing up teens, you know there’s certainly no whispering going on – Teen Hollerer would be more apt. But I’m not that. I’m just a mum of 2 teens and 1 tween doing the best I can. I also think that having the experience of bringing up teenagers of both genders means I sort of understand the differences between them as they grow, ie: boy teens are more prone to sulky silences and girls love a bit of drama and like to be heard…and by that I mean get-the-ear-plugs-ready H-E-A-R-D!!!!!!!! So, take it or leave it, but here are my top tips for raising terrific teens…or at least teens that you don’t feel you need to bundle in the closet before inviting around anyone you’re trying to impress…

DON’T TRY TO BE THEIR ‘FRIEND’ – Of course, I don’t mean don’t be friendly; I love nothing better than swapping shoes with Teen Queen (well, it’s more her nabbing my stuff really because I’m not that great with heights), enjoying shopping trips and chatting about who’s hot and who’s not on TOWIE etc…but when push comes to shove it doesn’t matter how old your kids are they need a mum’s guidance and discipline. So, we might have clothes swapping sessions but I’ll be on at her to clear it up after and not leave the room like a pigsty and I’ll always make sure I’m still tough on them keeping up the basics such as politeness, table manners, hygiene and general good behaviour. I know those life lessons should be ground in to them from a small child but you’d be suprised at how things ‘drop’ when they spend more time with their peers and less with their parents. So, basically, keep on nagging – they love it really.

LET THEM BE THEMSELVES: One of the biggest shockers about your perfect child growing into a teenager is that one day you wake up and aren’t sure who they are anymore. Who is that gangly, deep-voiced adolescent who’s eaten all the Sainsbury’s delivered food before you’ve even had time to unpack the bags, then chucked the wrappers on the floor before slinking back to his dark and dingy pit?  These strange boy-men morph from curly, blonde haired cherubs with round, rosy cheeks, to shaven haired, eyebrow-pierced giants who care more about music and girls than spending even an hour in your presence. But don’t be sad. It happens and when you get over the shock, it’s not really that bad. Honest. Be warned though, it’s  not just the looks that change, they begin to develop their own tastes in everything from music to politics and it can be quite alarming to find out that they might not think like you or even how you thought they would think. That’s the bit I found hardest to accept –  they aren’t like you, they aren’t that  ‘mini-me’ you romantically imagined as you caressed your bump before giving birth. But really, you need to give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve given them the confidence and inquisitiveness to go out into the world and not just accept that mum and dad’s views are the right ones, but to question them and make their own decisions. I’ve found that our differences make for some pretty heated debates around the kitchen table and sometimes they actually teach me a thing or two.

TALK, TALK, THEN TALK SOME MORE: After the constant 24/7 parenting that younger children need, it’s quite a relief when your children become more independent as it leaves you a little freer with your time. But it’s a big mistake to assume that just because they grunt an acknowledgement to you as they shuffle through the door after school and up to their room, that everything is okay. It probably is, but I’ve found it helps to find a moment to chat with them one on one. Getting together around the dinner table is good but not always an option with all the after school activities/homework etc that goes into a normal day. Always let them know that you’re there for them to talk, even if they think you might be cross or disappointed with what they’ve got to say – there’s always a way to get around problems if you talk about it.

I noticed recently that Little Angel was clamming up, staying in her room a lot and generally being much less forthcoming with tales from the classroom and I finally decided to have a word with her about it. I mentioned I was a bit worried about why she wasn’t telling me anything about a boy I knew she liked (I’d heard through a friend and wanted to check it out) and after a lot of umming and ah-hing,  she confessed:  “I’m scared to tell you mummy because daddy told me that if I have a boyfriend before I’m 21 that he will turn him upside down and put him in the dustbin!” 

And in the words of My Boy and his band The Pieces, if we don’t get it, perhaps we’re just Too Old To See…

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