The high school years go fast and there is still time to make some adjustments in your parenting before graduation. It may make all the difference in the world to your teen and your relationship now and help you avoid regret. Good parenting now may also be the model of how your children will raise their own kids some day.
Simplify and slow down. Life can be overwhelming for children, teens and young adults. Pressure can be immense to achieve, get into college and choose a major once there. Navigating the demands of parents, teachers, peers, and society can be daunting. Encourage your child to focus on fewer things and not attempt to juggle too many activities and responsibilities. Model this behavior yourself as a parent and spend some quiet time with your kid. Give yourself and them permission to slow down.
Get away as a family. Go ski, take a hike, go camping or some other shared experience that gets everyone out of their usual routine and enjoying nature. Plan a vacation if finances allow. Unplug from technology as much as possible and have some fun together. Play together.
Travel to third world countries. Let your kids view a bigger world outside of their school lives. Visiting a country that has poverty and hardship opens the minds of the youth that they live in an abundant society by comparison. Volunteering at a school in one of these struggling nations can be even more impactful for your child to get perspective of their life back home.
Laugh. Find ways to laugh. Watch funny movies together. Go see a comedian. Read a humorous book. Tickle each other or tell jokes. Lighten up with laughter.
Hug and say, “I love you”. Hug your child as often as you can. When they leave for school, give them a hug. When they come home from school, give them a hug. Let them know you love them as often as you can and in many different ways. Tuck a love note into their backpack, pocket of their coat, or suitcase. Send a random text to let them know you love them.
Talk about how to overcome challenges and failures. Being kicked off a team, failing a test, getting into trouble or being fired from a job can all seem like insurmountable problems to a young person. Share your wisdom of how you have overcome difficulties in your life. Reveal how sometimes what appears to be a failure can have a silver lining or open new opportunities. Show your child that there is life after setbacks and disappointments.
Be trustworthy. Prove to your child that you are trustworthy by not freaking out when they make poor choices or share information that rattles you. Be a safe person that they can come to and confide in. If you are upset by what your kid tells you, realize that parents are allowed to have human reactions. Share with your teen your need to process before you react. Again, build trust by coming back to them as soon as you are composed.
Check in with your child daily if they live with you and regularly if they have left home. Ask the tough questions. Keep your mouth shut and listen to their words and body language. Even when you are busy with work and responsibilities, carve out time to touch base with your child. If you really can’t stop or pause, let them know when you would be available.
Share meals. Eat together as the end of the day or as often as possible. Invite your child to coffee, lunch or dinner. Kids love to eat and it provides an opportunity for conversation. Always say yes when they extend the invitation for an outing. It is usually an indication they need to connect or share. A coffee shop or restaurant can provide a platform for uninterrupted time together. The cost to value ratio is priceless.
Encourage your child to invite their friends to your home. You learn a lot from observing their interactions and conversations. Ask their friends questions and get to know them. Meet their parents if possible.
Offer to be the driver if they don’t have their driver’s license yet or make a road trip together. Another opportunity to observe social interaction, listen to banter with their friends or have direct conversations.
Attend their activities. Introduce yourself to coaches, advisors and teammates and make yourself available to support the team or club if they are still in high school. Get to know other parents and encourage team-bonding activities. Invite them to attend your events. They may see you in a different light when you expose them to your other worlds.
Pay attention to their social media accounts. You will have a pulse on their attitudes and interactions by observing their updates. Have conversations if a post disturbs you. Guide them on appropriateness and safety on the Internet.
Utilize community support. Provide opportunities for kids to build layers of trust with other adults such as other family members, neighbors, coaches, religious counselors, teachers and mentors.
Help them find their unique gifts and talents. Avoid living vicariously through your child by directing them to your favorite sport or activity. Support your child to explore many areas until they discover their unique strengths. Then encourage them to develop and share their interest or passion.
Trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right, chances are you are right. Pay attention to their diet, sleep, and personal hygiene. They all provide clues to their feelings. Explore their anger or frustrations. Share your intuitive hits. Language like, “For some reason this is making me feel uncomfortable or resistant. Do you feel the same thing?” Obtain professional help before there is a crisis.
Avoid giving too many gifts. Possessions often clutter their rooms and lose their appeal quickly. Consider giving your time and attention instead. Perhaps treat your child to an activity or adventure. Create memories together.
Allow white space in their calendar. Allow them to have free time even risking the possible boredom. They may need to rest and recharge or just practice the art of doing nothing in a busy world.
Show instead of preach. Preaching to your children is less effective than showing them how to live by example. As you traverse through time together, point out what you love and why. If you like symphonic music, take them to a concert and tell them which instruments you most enjoy. If you love art, take them to a museum or art show and point out your favorite pieces. If you adore nature, take a hike or walk and observe and share what elements are most special to you. If you are a lover of health food, prepare together a nutritious dish and explain why each ingredient is healthful. Whatever creates passion in you, find a way to gently share it and your enthusiasm might be contagious!
The Parent’s Tao Te Ching by William Martin
The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents by Deepak Chopra
How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordan
Parenting With Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay
Ready or Not, Tips for the New Grad by Lisa Shultz
What tips or book recommendations do you have to share? Please comment below.