Any parent, whose child is approaching 13, has nightmares about what is to be unleashed- the hormonal ups and downs, the temper tantrums, the rebellion and the whole tumultuous ride that is innocently called “Teenage”. Nowadays with the global exposure and constant internet access, teenage seems to set in by 11 or 12 years of age even. By the time the parents realise what hit them, the tide is well under way. So, is it one of those things that a parent MUST suffer through to get to the other side? Or is there some pro-active measures that can be taken to soften the blow?
Accept the inevitable. No matter how much you’ve prayed, hoped or rationalized, your budding teenager WILL change as they hit puberty. It’s not like they wish it upon themselves. It hits them as hard as it hits you. It’s confusing for them too. Imagine waking up one day and finding your body all out of proportion/pimples/facial hair/body hair! Yes, even Spiderman got terrified of these changes; your kids are mere mortals. The better option is to accept that your kids will start to change, to morph and really shape into new human beings. It is always better to admit and adapt rather than deny and be forced to face the truth when it’s too late. When you accept this natural change, it will reflect in your manner too; you won’t confuse your adolescent by giving mixed signals of “you’re too young” and “you’re too old” at the same time.
Lay the foundation. As they cross the threshold into thirteen, there will be tears, heartbreaks, terrifying moments, crushes, racing hearts, and sometimes sulky days. Right from the time your kids turn 7 or 8, start building a friendly relationship with them alongside being a parental figure. Make sure you inculcate the environment where everyone talks openly about their day and never gets judged. Stop yourself from using statements like “you shouldn’t have done that”, “do you know how stupid/wrong that is?” “if you want to be a good boy/girl you wouldn’t do that”. They may not have much to share at this age but by the time comes when they enter teenage, they will have developed enough confidence in you to come and share anything and know that you will be there for them.
Show your fun side. Yes it’s important to be stern and firm while raising your children, but it is equally important to show them that you can have fun too. Laugh at the jokes they share, show interest in their gadgets, take them shopping sometimes just for fun and let them buy what they want, go to their favourite eating joint with them “just like that” and the likes. This will come in most handy when they get into teenage when things are segregated into just two groups – “cool” and “uncool”. Where do you want to be?
Be fallible. We all think that if we want to raise children with a good conscience, then we must always set the best morally right example for them. Wrong! If you set too perfect an example, you set impossible standards for them which will break them if they want to follow it to the letter. Plus if you’re not too careful, you may end up exposing chinks in your own behaviour which don’t conform to the standards you are teaching them, and this again sends a mixed signal which is more likely to cause rebellion. The better strategy is to show that side of you that made mistakes and sometimes learned things the hard way. It’s only in this way that you’ll be able to teach them better decision making and better distress tolerance for tough times.
Never forget they are the same. Finally, prepare yourself to accept them when they turn into teenagers, follies and all, because even though they may seem like a stranger all of a sudden, they are still the kids you raised. They still have the values you gave them. They are just trying to find their way in a new world which is both exciting and terrifying. They don’t want your judgement (however well intended!), they only want your support, just for a couple of years. Let them make mistakes, let them stumble, let them adopt new identities. If they know home is where they feel safest, they will find their true selves eventually. Nobody stays stuck in teenage forever.
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