Today, my daughter, now 13, made it to the Honor Roll in her new school in Virginia. As any other mom, I’m a little misty-eyed, proud and emotional. Standing proud and tall, today she is all about positivity and confidence.
After scouring the Internet and reading how-to books, I thought I was always prepared about parenting a teen. Being the mom of a teen girl, I anticipated hair problems, clothes problems and perhaps some (!) boy problems. However, I was wrong. Early in the teen year, I noticed that the tribulations were deeper than, “Why doesn’t my hair look good today?” It was all about extreme low confidence and negativities.
What did the parenting experts say? “Put yourself in her shoes.” I did. (Fortunately, I am size 5) I found nothing. What could be wrong with a teen who was a straight A-student, black belt in karate, proficient in music and looks good? I wondered. I never found an answer.
Stark and naked, the problem met my eyes. There was no point denying it.
I was scared. I could see signs of the wrong path she was treading. I knew with time, things would get worse.
How could I raise a positive teen? I questioned myself. The quest began for questions and answers. I was on a mission.
Sharing with you some of the lessons learned.
Bond with your teen: In our busy lives, when everyone is trying to meet deadlines, we ignore times we can bond with our teen. Although, a stay-at-home mom, there were “other things” that demanded my attention. Perhaps the time I spent was not enough for a teen in a slump.To raise a positive teen, try making time without being overbearing. For me, it was easiest when I woke her up in the morning. Fresh and eager, she looked forward to my hugs and kisses. A perfect time to bond, make her realize that I was there.
Talk to your teen: Communication is vital, but perhaps the most difficult when it comes to teens. You ask questions, you receive monosyllables. Accept those “yays,” “nas” and the shrug of the shoulder. However, try to sneak in a conversation occasionally. It doesn’t have to be for hours, a few minutes are enough. Give her your undivided attention. The dishes, paperwork and the laundry can wait. Remain calm and keep the conversation simple.
Listen to your teen: Listening to her point-of-view helps raise a positive teen. Ask questions and pause for answers. Hold her hand as she talks. Provide them the assurance and the love.
Share your experiences: Put yourself in similar circumstances and relate your experiences to your teen. (We have plenty up our sleeves, don’t we?) It’s not just comforting but amusing too. While you lighten up the moment with laughs, leave the room with a positive lesson. Allow her to mull, revisit and check if she moved ahead. If not, try again.
Healthy comparison: She goes up the stage to accept her certificate to the National Junior Honor Society with slouched shoulders and eyes that met the floor. As I videotaped the ceremony, I covered (zoomed) her and her friends, making sure she notices the difference in her poise and walk. “Oh! Why did I walk like that? I look awful.”
“It’s all about your confidence. What were you thinking? Do you want to talk?”
Accept Yourself: For a 13-year old teen, the pressure lies in the acceptance of her peers. In her incessant attempts to be the most popular, she lose her individuality. Talk about acknowledging and loving herself for the way she is. Help her recognize the positive traits. Never allow negative thoughts like,”Oh, I’m not good.” Enforce positive opinions by saying “We’re all different and that’s what makes this world such a great place.”
Compliment: “I’m so proud of you.” “Look at what you have accomplished.” “Wow, you were the only one to do it in your whole class.” “I saw you remembered my lesson and tried to work on it.” Acknowledge every moment, every little step they take towards positivity.
Remain Positive: Yes, things are tough for everyone, but continue on your path of positivity. Be their role model. Make your home a haven they come back to. The more they see you relaxed and calm, the easier it will get for them.
In the words of Bill Cosby, “In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.”
Now, if only I could learn how to raise a difficult 9-year old?