Parenting articles and books have been encouraging parents to form close bonds with their child. But the advice dramatically shifts for the raising of older children, as pop-culture pundits suggest that it’s normal for teens, and even pre-teens, to disengage from their families.
“She lives on her phone in her room, But what can I do? It’s her phone and her life.” Parents are having a challenge in managing their teen’s life. But this is leaving their child alone to manage hormone-induced mood swings and the shifting sands of peer politics.
In fact, many parents are allowing their teens to disconnect from family because of three common myths:
- teens need their friends more than their parents
- teens don’t need tech limits because they know how to use tech better than parents, and
- any parental involvement in teens’ lives is helicopter parenting
It’s considered normal today for teens to seek comfort and direction primarily from peers, often via social media and text, rather than getting help from parents. Yet, while it’s great for kids to have friends, the belief that friends are more important than parents is a setup for heartache. Even the best of friends may switch alliances or turn their backs when the going gets tough. The result is that teens feel deserted and sink into despair. In contrast, parents are deeply invested in their kids and would give their lives for them if needed. Such unwavering support is what our teens need to find their way on the rough road of adolescence.
Most parents don’t provide their teens with any media limits, and teens now spend a disturbing eight hours each day playing with phones and entertainment media. The truth is that while teens may be able to flip through devices with ease that moms and dads can’t, parents’ greater brain development allows them to understand something teens cannot: how the overuse of gaming, social media, and texting pulls kids away from family and a focus on school.
Too many parents shy away from engaging with their teens, as they have been convinced that any involvement in teens’ lives is helicopter parenting. Yet, decades of research have shown that authoritative parenting gives us the best chances of raising teens who are emotionally healthy and do well in school. Authoritative parents are loving and responsive, yet they also provide teens with high expectations and limits to support those expectations. The bottom line is that teens need our guidance.
The reality is that it’s a mistake of grand proportions to turn teens loose just as profound hormonal and brain changes render them acutely vulnerable to life’s insults.
Provide the Family Your Teen Needs
What’s critical is that we don’t respond to our teens’ emotional dysregulation in kind, which I know is easier said than done. If we maintain our composure, our teens are better able to recognize their own misbehaviour and make improvements. And for the inevitable rough patches between teens and parents, it’s crucial for teens to have an extended family of caring adults–such as grandparents, teachers, and coaches–who also offer support.
Providing teens authoritative parenting means giving them autonomy to make choices within the structure of a home that fosters a connection to family and school. This can be accomplished by limiting teens’ use of smartphones and other gadgets, and by being mindful not to overuse tech ourselves. Also, carve out family time amidst hectic schedules. Simple moments such as walking the dog or sharing pancake breakfasts on weekends work wonders. With our love and support, we can decrease the suffering of this generation of teens and instead help them lead happy & successful lives.
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