Ahh, teen parenting—fair to say it’s no picnic sometimes, right? Little kids, little problems; big kids, well you get the idea. Those sweet little kids you’ve been raising, the ones that cuddle for a bedtime story and hold your hand crossing the street, are giving way to tech savvy teens that want to be alone, in closed rooms so they can travel the world via the Internet learning god-knows-what.
Ray Romano, everyone’s favorite funny man once said, “Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.” If chaos rules in your household, if there are more questions than answers, we hope to provide a few answers with some suggestions on parenting teenagers. And live through the process.
1. Financial Savviness
This is teen parenting 101. Even if you can provide everything your teen needs and wants, you probably shouldn’t. Teaching teens how to manage money is one of the best gifts a parent can give. If your teen is working, decide together how that salary will be used; clothes, entertainment, gas for the family car? Encourage your children to set aside part of their salary into a savings account, match the amount they save each week if you can. Resist the urge to bail them out if the money runs short. The best time to learn how to live on their income is when they really don’t have to.
2. Common Sense on the Road
Even with years of driving experience, we make mistakes, narrowly dodge bad drivers and encounter our share of scary driving experiences. Many adults will admit to talking on the cell phone or even worse, texting while driving. Teen drivers armed will cell phones are at an even greater risk when inattention and inexperience get behind the wheel. Be realistic with your children about the dangers of texting while driving, and lead by example. Look for apps that prevent incoming texts while the car is moving and download them to your teen’s phone.
3. Common Sense with Technology
The Internet is a blessing and a curse. It’s a gateway to knowledge and an opening for predators of all kinds to ensnare your child. Talk to your children about the internet emphasizing that nothing is private. Discuss ‘sexting’-sending and receiving sexually explicit photos. Point out that several national figures lost their jobs as a result of sexting what they thought were private photos. Have a frank discussion about chat rooms and how predators can trick teens into dangerous relationships. Insist your children share their passwords and encourage your children to tell you if they are approached inappropriately over the Internet.
4. Aesthetic Guidance
For most of us, the teen years meant pimples, clothes that were never quite right and hairdos we’d rather forget. What we went through, your teens are living through too. You can’t force them to make fashionable choices but, as a parent you should have the final say over clothing, makeup and hair. When all else fails and it feels like parenting teenagers is impossible, don’t despair; anything that can be washed off or washed out will fade away like the fad it is. Let your kids experiment with makeup and hair; draw the line at piercings and tattoos.
5. Personal Space
A messy room is the cause of many parental/teen discussions, even arguments. Addressing your teen as the young adult they are, set some ground rules. If you haven’t taught them to do laundry, now’s the time; if they’re out of clean clothes, it’s their own fault. If dishes are piling up, insist they be returned to the kitchen and dealt with either in the sink or the dishwasher. If all else fails, close the door; this too shall pass.
6. Literary Love
Today’s teens have a wealth of young adult literature to choose from. The Divergent series and the Twilight series have been popular as have the Hunger Games trilogy. You can also steer your kids toward more adult literature. Beloved by Toni Morrison or the books in the Game of Thrones series are excellent choices for teen readers.
7. Teen Pregnancy
Hopefully, you’ve answered your child’s questions about sex and reproduction from the very first. In a time when teenage hormones are driving a lot of bad decisions, parents need to have a frank, open talk about teenage pregnancy, its prevention and consequences. If you’re not comfortable having the conversation, enlist help from the family doctor or a favorite aunt or uncle. Who leads the discussion is not nearly as important as having it with your teen.
8. Leadership Skills
Encourage your child to seek out opportunities that develop leadership skills. Whether its team sports or school clubs, those chances to sharpen leadership skills will translate into adult opportunities later. As Latino’s become a bigger component of both political parties, when it comes to teen parenting, it is important that we raise a generation of children ready to take their place in the world. Who knows? The day we elect a Latino president might be right ahead.