Are the teenage years the best?
Ideally, they should be, but a teenager faces so many changes, physically, mentally, and emotionally that if the parents of a teen are not in tune with them, their best years may actually be their worst.
My soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter is not such a typical teenager because of our unique family situation. She is the youngest of 4 kids, with her older siblings all young adults in their 20’s and 30’s, and with naturally older parents. And like many uncommon circumstances, there are advantages and disadvantages.
The most apparent advantage AND disadvantage is that she is like an only child because of the vast age difference between her and her siblings. She might not have to compete with other teenage siblings for her parents’ attention because idealistically speaking, her siblings should be self-sufficient by now. At the very least, they can transport themselves anywhere, and hopefully, be financially independent and self-reliant for their physical and emotional wellbeing. But on the other hand, her siblings are not very understanding of her issues, since they left those precarious years well behind and can’t relate anymore.
We, as her older parents, can be a detriment and a benefit. Raising a teenager is old news, having done that between 15-20 years ago with our older kids, not to mention being tiresome and consuming. But, on the other hand, experience and confidence in our parenting skills speak for themselves because our adult children didn’t turn out so badly. So the benefits of having older parents outweigh the detriment.
Although I can also say as an older parent, the influence of social media on my teenager was a non-issue with my older children. Not only did we have to acquaint ourselves with the workings of all types of social media, but also pay special attention as to how it’s affecting our daughter. Basically, the lines of communication between her and us had to be established early on, probably in middle school, so she would come to us with any problems that social media might’ve created in her life. And so far, it’s worked. It is so much easier to help our kids if they run into any problems if you know what’s been going on all along.
The certain traits you hope your teenager possesses to grow into a well-adjusted adult is self-confidence and being true to oneself. We were lucky enough to be raising a teenager who feels confident in herself and has no need to act a certain way to be accepted by her peers. This is very difficult to achieve because a teen is so easily swayed by others around him or herself. Again my teenager was at an advantage growing up and interacting with adults most of her life and emulated her siblings’ behavior to be independent thinkers.
Though still, we need to be vigilant, especially now in the high school years, because friendships and influences can change so easily. But again, keep the lines of communication open, even if time only allows for a short chat in the car.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned recently is that it’s also a good idea to pull away from your kids during the older teen years, especially throughout the high school years. I was guilt-ridden, if anything, for a few years about not being available for my teenager because of wedding planning and the arrival of my grandchildren, in addition to caring for aging and ill parents. All this and other responsibilities made me so unavailable to my daughter, but in actuality, I was doing her a favor. Sometimes, your teen can work out his/her own problem, if not too serious, and it doesn’t become an issue until a parent gets involved. So let little things go, but still, look out for any new struggles your teen is facing and intervene if you have to.
The teen years are the most promising years for sure when a child grows into an adult and has the energy, time, and capacity to have a successful, happy, healthy, and full life ahead. We, as parents, are the most influential people in our teen’s lives, and despite our doubts and misgivings, our constant guidance and love will assure our teens’ years will truly be their best years.