Tips on how to raise a happy teenager

Is your teenage child happy? 

If you can say a confident ‘yes’, you don’t have to read any further.It means that you know a secret which many parents don’t. If your answer is ‘sometimes’ or’probably’, then you are not alone. Your teen is no longer the same child who used to laugh at your jokes, wanted to accompany you wherever you go, felt elated to get a small sticker as a reward or just kept talking even if u weren’t listening. Now she prefers to spend more time with friends, phone, clothes or in front of the mirror! Not to worry; love is not lost….she just wants to assert her independence.

The hormonal and physiological changes make them do things they have never done before – talking back, questioning your authority, tendency to break rules, signs of rebellious attitude. That doesn’t mean things have gone out of control or life can’t be the same again.

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Your teen loves you and needs you more than ever

How do you help your teen? (thereby helping yourself!)

To help a teenager you should first understand that they have tender hearts and strong conflicting emotions (remember your teenage years). Have you ever wondered how terrorist groups and drug traffickers train teens to be used as weapons against innocent people? They take advantage of these qualities of teenagers, who can be convinced and moulded when you approach them the right way. Why not use the same to get closer and bond with them? As parents, I am sure we can do a great job of that.

I would like to share with you some of the steps I took to get closer to my teenage daughter:

Manage your emotions

If u are dealing with someone with confused feelings, you should first get your emotions under control. Promise yourself not to get angry, no matter what. It’s ridiculous to shout,”don’t you dare shout at me!” Practice anger management techniques if the need arises – deep breathing, counting up to  10, taking a walk – anything that will distract you.Show that it is possible to control anger by doing it yourself.

You might be having problems at work or at home, but forget them when you are with your teen.Don’t ask her,”Do you know the problems I have?” She doesn’t need to and has enough problems of her own to worry about. Just focus on her and show that you care. Eventually, she will start caring about you.

Respect your child’s feelings

This would be the best lesson learnt in showing how to respect others. Never reprimand her in front of others even if she had done something wrong. Have a private talk with her to point out her mistakes. When there is a discussion, for eg., about teens, always take your child’s side, when you are with friends, relatives or even extended family. You might casually make some remark, sometimes not even intentionally,  but it hurts her and stays in her mind forever.

Have an open conversation

If you ask her the mundane question,”How was school today?” the answer will also be the typical “Good.” They seem to love monosyllables more than ever!

Pick the right time and place to talk. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to get something done from your parents, what would you do? Wait for them to get into a good mood before you start speaking. Do the same with your teen. They might be stressed out with school work, peer pressure or pressure from teachers. So wait for the right moment. Also, choose a place that is comfortable for both of you.

Start the conversation with a topic she loves.Ask open-ended questions like –

What do you think…

Why do you feel so…

What would happen if...

Don’t get discouraged if you get a shrug as an answer. Change the topic or the tone of the questions.

My daughter loves baking and sketching. So once I start the topic, she talks so enthusiastically that I wonder if she’s the same girl who seemed disinterested in talking just a few minutes ago.

Once she is comfortable, open the topic about whatever you wanted to talk –  for eg, her unacceptable behaviour that morning and how you felt about it or spending too much time on the phone, etc. Don’t make it sound like you are giving a big talk; let it be interactive.You can even narrate your own experiences, both good and bad. Try talking about the first time you met your husband and watch her listen with jaw-dropping curiosity!

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Doing an activity together is the best way to bond

Do an activity together

Some kids open up when they do their favourite activity like playing games, shopping or watching movies. Try to develop an interest in whatever she likes, even if you think it is absurd. You have to put in that effort if you want to bond with your child. What more, she will be surprised and happy that you took the effort. Doing household chores together also helps sometimes, even though it may not be your favourite activity or most definitely, hers! Some of the things we like to do together are cycling, playing badminton, shopping, watching movies and baking (and subsequent cleaning !).

Involve your teen in the family’s decision-making

Teenagers have a curious and individualistic mindset. They look at things with a different perspective and might give an ingenious solution you would never have thought of. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. This would train them to think analytically, improve their sense of self-worth and help in bonding as a family.

When there is a real problem (and the problem is not you!)

When you feel she has a problem, listen to her patiently without being judgemental. (It’s quite difficult but give it a good try). After she finishes, ask questions which would make you and herself understand where the fault lies or whose mistake it is. If it’s her mistake, she will quickly understand. Help her accept it and take responsibility.  If it’s someone else’s, your first impulse would be to go ahead and pounce on that person, at least verbally. Control yourself (remember,  anger management) and ask your child how she is going to tackle the situation. Let her handle it with your guidelines in mind.

Don’t compromise on discipline 

Discipline should always be enforced, irrespective of the child’s age. Only the manner in which you do it should be modified. Non-adherence to family values, inappropriate language, using violence, staying out for long without informing – all these should definitely be discouraged. Draw a clear line between understanding your teen’s emotions and tolerating bad behaviour.

We all know that to nurture any relationship we need to put in time and effort. This is especially true with our teenagers. You can’t take them for granted just because they are your kids.They are not a part of you or an extension of you. They are individuals in the real sense of the word. The way you interact with your teenage child would determine the strength of your relationship later on in life.

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Quilling art by my daughter

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Help your teen sail through this difficult phase by making it an enjoyable journey for both of you and watch her grow into a loving and lovable adult.

How do you bond with your teen? Any ingenious ideas that you can share?

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