Parenting has never been more difficult than it is today and with each passing generation it will only become more and more challenging. Why? Well it is a cumulative effect…a generational curse of sorts. Humans seem to be complexly confused about what is right, what is wrong, do we or don’t we plague parents on many levels. Media breeds fear and the fifteen minutes of potential fame is intriguing the younger generation to act in extreme ways now for attention. Nutrition is poorer than ever in the history of the world, exercise is less as technology replaces physical excursion (motorized scooters, video games, power wheels, etc.). I know, I must sound like an old stick in the mud, believe me I am not, but these things significantly impact brain chemistry and physical, mental, and emotional development. Children are struggling from the inside out!
And then let’s touch on the subject of increased divorce rate (average of 50% in the United States, if you live in my area of town (North Texas) the divorce rate is roughly 62%!). Children are torn between two parents, two sets of rules and expectations, two sets of friends…it is all but a double life combined with lowered cognitive development and children/teens cannot (literally) wrap their brains around their own life!
If this isn’t a bad enough picture yet, let’s talk about children not having as much time with parents anymore because of the workload that is required of parents just to provide the basic necessities for children. This generation is experiencing a depression that keeps their parents at work instead of home. Technology creates a 24/7 work schedule instead of a 9-5. Children are desperate for attention, love, comfort, and affection so they go where they can find it easiest…the internet, peers, drugs, alcohol, online gaming, message boards, etc.
The statistics for teens are startling and yet they are preventable. We cannot stop divorce. We cannot change the economy to allow for only one parent to work. We cannot delete technology and the crossover effect it has created. So what can we do? First just let me say this…DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR KID!
Step 1 is to acknowledge their struggle is real.
Step 2 is to always love them harder during their struggles.
Step 3 is to explore lifestyles and evaluate what can be modified.
Step 4 is to implement the modifications as a family.
I want to expand on Step 4. Being a family unit during times of change is critical. Ease the stress and tension from the overburdened child/teen by walking the journey with them side-by-side. If nutrition or exercise is a contributing factor, change this as a family unit, not just placing this expectation of change on the child/teen! Let the kids know they are part of a unit that is a strong bond; create a hopeful space filled with support. There are doable ways to help your teen:
Family meals are important in changing children from the inside out! I wrote a blog on this a while back, check it out and know the statistics on how family meals impact kids, you might be surprised! Click here MEALTIME MISSION
Be involved in your kid’s life! They act like they don’t want you to be that parent but the truth is…they really do! Communication with kids is critical to a healthy relationship and to their development, sense of self, and feeling of security and safety. Ask about school, friends, who they’re dating, what they learned in church, etc. Know your kid, they secretly want you to know them!
My Pinterest board “FAMILY TIME” has excellent ideas for family game night, conversation starters, what to expect from teens, etc.! I am continually updating it with great new finds, be sure to check it out, just click here
Seek counseling if you need help with your teen. Parents come to counselors all the time for advice, education, and help for themselves, for their child, and for their family. There is no parenting handbook so asking for help from people who have a degree in child/adolescent development and parenting skills is never a bad or embarrassing thing to do, it is an excellent thing to do! Odds are you can find a counselor who has walked this same journey with their own child and can deeply empathize with you! PsychologyToday.com has a list of therapists searchable by location and/or insurance!
The greatest advice I can offer parents is to set boundaries! Be fun, be flexible, but be firm in your boundaries! What are your rules and expectations? It is important to know these and for your children/teens to know these too. As children develop into tweens and teens they will push boundaries and try to break the rules, this is perfectly normal! Reinforce boundaries with love. Never give up on your kid, always have hope they will survive the teen years (and so will you!), and create a healthy place that is fun and firm for them to grow up in!