How to help your child through the teen years….

                                           

There’s something about kids in their teen years.  Hormones are careening through their bodies, life is changing at scary rates and all of the other teens  around them are going through the same things.  This can often lead to teens being uncommonly cruel towards each other — and anyone else in the vicinity.

Why are teens often rude to one another?

It’s a pretty unsettling time for teens.  Often, almost every aspect of their lives is changing at once — from where they go to school to what their body shapes are to what their friends want to do for fun.  Hormones are raging, high school is looming (or already making life challenging new in often overwhelming ways), embarrassing physical changes are occurring and they’re torn between the exciting lure of young adult hood and the safety and fun of their teen/tween experiences.

There’s also an ever-increasing need at this developmental stage for teens to feel that they fit in.  Often, they try to make themselves look and feel better by trying to make others look and feel worse. You may find social media as their largest means of communicating with others……

How can you protect your teen?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to fully shield your teen from this kind of behavior during these years.  Friends, neighbors, peers and other teen peers are likely to at least occasionally target anyone they can.  Parents and teachers are often oblivious, especially since some of the “best” students can practice some of the meanest behavior away from adult eyesight.

There are plenty of ways to help your teen through these times, though, such as:

  • Talk about times when you were treated badly at that age, and anything that helped.
  • Encourage reading.  Many young adult novels deal with characters who face bullying and other tough teen issues.  It can be immensely helpful for kids to live through these things through fictional characters.
  • Help your child take part in clubs, sports or organizations that provide him or her with a positive support system.
  • Monitor online interactions.  Kids are often meanest in social networking arenas. Have your teen unplug from social media to take a break from the online drama they may be being caught up in.
  • Facilitate time with good friends who are loyal and supportive of your teen.
  • Be there for your teen and encourage time for just the two of you to talk (no pressure).
  • Nurture your teen’s interests, skills and hobbies.  Not only will this help your teen’s self esteem, but it provides more positive things to focus on.
  • Look for role models who talk about going through difficult times at this age.  Many actors, writers and other public figures talk about going through very awkward stages and dealing with cruel classmates.
  • Regularly do things as a family – teens don’t always want to feel like their being “grilled” -sometimes just going out for coffee – driving with the radio on – your teen will open up when you least expect it🙂
  • This is a time when having secure, attached relationships with parents is especially critical for kids.

What if your teen is acting mean?

Unfortunately, this is a time when good kids can behave badly too.  Teens can be especially cruel to siblings, but can also act terrible towards parents and target other kids.

Here are some ways to head off this sort of behavior:

  • Again, talk about how that sort of thing affected you as a teen (either as a victim or instigator).
  • Discourage social situations that tend to result in your teen adopting the “pack mentality.”  For instance, if you notice that a certain group of friends really encourages making fun of other young people, set up more social opportunities for your teen with more positive friends.
  • Respectfully point out when your teen says or does something hurtful.  Be gentle (remember, as mean as kids can be at this age, they are still extremely sensitive themselves!) but let them know if you think they’ve done something that is likely to hurt someone.
  • Have a zero tolerance policy for nastiness.  It’s fine to be moody and grumpy, but it’s not fine to hurt someone else to feel better.  Let kids know that if they’re hurtful to the people around them, they’re going to need to go somewhere else or make it right for that person.
  • Encourage empathy.  Talk about how others might be feeling when someone says something mean to them.  Watch movies and TV shows that show bullying from the receiver’s standpoint.  Again, books can help, too.
  • Give them a wide berth.  If your kids are obviously in especially foul moods, sometimes it’s good to keep siblings away temporarily and leave them to sort themselves out.  Explain to younger brothers and sisters that it’s not personal, and do something special with them for the time being.
  • Relationship, relationship, relationship is key🙂Enjoy your teen – time goes by so quickly 😊