Preparing Kids for the Teen Years

My girls are 11 and 12, meaning that in less than 2 years I’ll be the mom of two teenagers. I’m trying not to panic, but have to admit that it really freaks me out! I was a HORRIBLE teenager and put my mom through so much, I can only imagine what my girls have in store for me. I’ve collected some tips for Preparing Kids for the Teen Years – maybe they’ll help you other soon-to-be-teen-moms, as well! It may be challenging, but at least we don’t have to be preparing for teen years alone.

Preparing Kids: Don’t Wait to Discuss the ‘P’ Word

Yes, I mean ‘puberty’. This is definitely not a favorite topic of most people, and it can be an uncomfortable conversation for parents to have with their kids – but it’s super important that you discuss it with them. It’s probably best to talk about the changes they’ll go through – the physical as well as the emotional – before they’re overwhelmed in the middle of it all. The more you treat it as a very normal thing (because it IS a normal thing!), the less embarrassed they’ll be by it.

I remember when I first hit puberty (it was a bit earlier than the other girls) I wasn’t too embarrassed – it was a normal part of life, so why make a big deal? But when other girls started acting like it was this awful, horrifying thing that had to be kept hushed and secret, I began to let them convince me it WAS weird. Help your kids feel comfortable, which will also help their confidence.

Preparing Kids: Communicate Often (be available to listen)

When kids are little, it can be frustrating to hear every little thing about this one show or random game, or perhaps a tidbit from school that happens almost every day. It takes a lot of our energy and patience to seem interested in what WE consider the ‘little, unimportant things’. But guess what – they may be important things to THEM. And if we help them learn that we’re happy to listen and will be there for them to go to when it is the more ‘minor’ things, they’ll feel more comfortable coming to us when it’s a bit more major.

We parents expect respect from our kids, but it’s extremely important that we reciprocate. If our kids don’t feel like we respect them back, why would they want to share these crazy things going on in their life? Why would they trust us to react without judgement or criticism, or trust any advice or thoughts we may give?

Preparing Kids: Pick Your Battles

This is suggested in so many aspects of life, and with teens it can save your sanity! There’s going to be so much going on, that you can’t nitpick or comment on every single thing that may not be perfect. Save it for the things that will truly matter. If you spend all of your energy fighting about a clean room (not saying they shouldn’t clean their room, it’s just an example), then how much MORE are you going to feel the need to fight about things like dating, drugs, school, good friends, etc.

Small Things Might be the Big Things

Just like I mentioned earlier – what we consider to be little or insignificant may be very important to your teen. Don’t shrug things off or downplay how much it matters, or they may not come to you with anything.

Teach and Give More Responsibility

Kids kind of learn that actions have consequences when they’re younger – hitting your brother may get you a time out, or not doing your homework may mean missing out on a school event. When they’re teens, actions matter more and have more lasting or severe consequences. Make more of an effort to teach them, so they can understand their choices better – and hopefully make better ones when life throws obstacles or unwise things in their way.

While we should expect more responsibility of our teens, keep in mind that they’re not only still learning – but their brains are LITERALLY not fully developed. Their frontal lobe isn’t to the level of an adult yet, so be reasonable with your expectations. Guide them, give them some slack, but help them so in the future they’re prepared.

Prepare Them for the Future

Not only prepared to do well in school and make educational or career choices, but to also be prepared to support themselves. One of my biggest frustrations as an adult is finances, and a large part of that is because I was never taught. In the teen years, it’s crucial that they learn good money sense – how to earn it well, manage it well, and especially to save and avoid debt. This lesson can make a MAJOR difference in their future, trust me!

Teach Them to Serve

It’s pretty natural for people to focus on themselves – especially teenagers. Help teach them to serve others, to recognize and focus on the feelings and needs of others. This will not only help them become amazing adults who can make a difference in the world, but will help them have a happier life because they’re not just focusing inward to themselves.

It’s Okay to be an Emotional Rollercoaster

Looking back, it’s clear that much of my teen years were spent on a rollercoaster of emotions – not just day to day but even minute to minute. The biggest stress was not knowing WHY I’d be crying one instant and fine the next. Or crying and feeling angry but not understanding why I felt that way. I’m trying hard to point out to my kids that it’s normal – their hormones are going to go out of whack as they get closer to the teen years, so it’s literally a chemical imbalance in their body causing that. It doesn’t mean they’re unreasonable or ridiculous. And it may help them get past those mood swings better when they understand that’s all it is, and that it’ll pass.

Friends Can Ruin You

Parents often talk about ‘good friends’ or ‘bad friends’. It’s important to not push your child away by criticizing their choice of friends, but find subtle or creative ways to help guide THEM to point out ways the friends may either be helping them in their life – with their goals and where they want to go in the future – or hindering that. That can help your child make their own decision about their friends!

Watch for Warning Signs

Pay attention to your child, their actions and words – and even more subtle things – just to keep an eye out for warning signs of really bad choices that could hurt their lives or futures. Catching things before they get too far can make a huge difference in redirecting things and getting back on the right track.

Remember Walking in Their Shoes

It’s really easy to get frustrated – my kids aren’t quite teens YET, but I still feel like I’m going crazy dealing with all the pre-teen drama and such! The thing that’s helped me the most is remembering when I was a teenager, how crazy it was and how difficult to understand everything. This helps me see from their perspective a bit, and grant a bit more patience.

Wishing luck to us all as we’re preparing kids for teen years!

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