As you may (or may not) remember, teen years are usually more stressful than most other stages of one’s life; especially today. And if you have a teen in your family or in your life, you probably know there have been changes in your relationship as they grow. But did you know with thought and effort on your part you can grow with them and not miss out on this amazing time in their life. Just keep in mind some key words.
ASK, but don’t ask loaded questions. Staying interested in new things they discover or are interested in (without making judgments) is always a good place to start even if things have gotten a little distant. AND ask their opinion, about their ideas, and even about what they like and dislike about you (this will open many doors).
LISTEN. When you ask questions do you feel you need to warn the teen about mistakes you have made? Don’t, unless they ask. Remember this is their life. Mistakes are lessons that are remembered better when accomplished on their own; they also instill self-confidence. It may also be a test on their part; you know “freaking” Grandma out to see what she will do. If you can prove to them you can listen impartially when you ask questions or when they just start talking about something (even if you have no interest in or idea of what/who they are taking about); then you are not only teaching them how to be a good listener, but you are sharing in their life.
PRAISE. So many times teens have issues with their self-esteem; it is because this is the time in their life where they are discovering who they are and who they CAN be. Again, it is their choice. But thoughtful and prudent praise can not only help them with their self-image, but it can teach them that you can be more than a grandparent to them.
LEARN. Yep, learn from the kids. With all the societal and technical changes in their generation, they can teach you more than you probably want to know. They can teach us about who they are, and even about how best we can connect with them. And if you are patient and alert you will probably learn something about yourself, the world, and them that you would never have learned on your own.
DISCOVER. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is so heartwarming and renewing. Yet, teens are usually not as easy to read. But attentive and engaging grandparents can not only discover new information, new ideas, new experiences, new ways of doing things, but even new sides of their grandchildren they didn’t know existed.
STAY CONNECTED. In this day and age, long distance should not mean less communication. Ok, so you don’t like texting; if it is important to your grandchild then do it only with them. But there are also many different ways to communicate across distances that take only a minute of your time! If you are not communicating and they know how easy it is to do so; what does that tell them about how much you care?
WHEN STRESSED keep your emotions and opinions out of it. Teen years, as you may recall, are more emotional than other times of life. Calm heads and patience saves more than hurt feelings. If you really want to help them, SHOW (don’t tell) them how to deal with stresses in life. Remember that they are still learning and some will take more time than others to master your maturity.
DON’T BE NEEDY. Teen kids can be cruel, and this doesn’t always happen to your face. At this time of ever changing emotions, body, and internal chemistry feeling vulnerable is a hidden terror to them. When you display it, you become unreliable and someone they don’t want to be associated with.
One more tidbit; keep in mind boys and girls mature differently. Did you know there are books out for teen girls to understand teen boys? Did you know some studies show teen boys are very concerned about losing weight? Wanna keep up on teen news? Huffington Post TEEN is a section that includes a lot of good articles and links. Parent’s magazine also has a whole section devoted to Teens.
The one thing we must offer our Grandchildren is our understanding and unconditional love. These two gifts will need to be given with a lot of thought, patience, and (in many cases) repetition to sink in at this stage of their lives. Many of us are so interested in protecting them we forget it is time that this responsibility needs to be turned over to them. And even if you are not birds of a feather, you can still experience things together in the stage of life that each of you are going through.