In many ways, a young child is not that different from a teenager: emotional, independent, necessarily (and appropriately) self-centered, and driven by internal processes that they don’t fully understand. So if you raise the former, you might as well be looking at the latter.
But if it fills you with fear – if you’re worried, you have to go through this Toddler 2: Return of mood swings – no fear. There is much you can do when your child is young to help grow them into happy, healthy adolescents. Here is your playbook.
Determine your role in their life.
Knowing what to expect from you well in advance is critical to the dynamic you will share in your child’s teenage years. If they tell you how they feel, will you listen and validate those feelings? If they confess to something they did wrong, can they trust you to act reasonably? The more you can show them in childhood that you are a safe place to bring hurt and fear, the more they will do so long-term. And part of being that safe place is restraint: Stanford Children’s Health advises ask Your child when they want advice – or even an answer – when they share thoughts and feelings, or when you just need to listen.
Promote good mental health hygiene at home.
It’s estimated that 13 percent of teens suffer from depression, which means it’s vital that you help your child build coping skills early on. Parent resource site Understood.org recommends taking the following steps to teach your child to manage difficult emotions:
- Be curious about their feelings and ask them to name and describe them.
- Help them understand the source of these feelings.
- Remind them of methods that have calmed them down in the past, such as listening to music or reading softly.
- Brainstorm some other activities together that they could try to make themselves feel better.
- And like I said, really Listento stay fully present and to show that you are aware of how important these feelings are to her. The easier your child can handle big emotions, the better prepared they will be to protect their sanity later.
Model a healthy use of technology.
A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health found that the determining factor in whether a teenager has a healthy or unhealthy relationship with technology is — you guessed it — the way theirs is Parents stand by technology. And it’s not just about setting screen time limits or installing tracking software. The study found that the more parents spoken told their children about prudent use of social media and technology, the more appropriate their children’s attachment to technology proved to be.
Don’t be weird with their bodies.
Children can suffer from negative body image at any time during childhood—but during the teenage years, these feelings tend to take on a new dimension, often leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and even depression. These negative feelings are more likely to occur if you’ve set up a home where a focus on weight or shape is the order of the day, says the Mayo Clinic, which advises parents repeat to their children “that you’re exercising and staying balanced feed for your health, not just to look a certain way.”
Additionally, it’s important to keep the way you talk about your own body in check. Complaining about the size of your thighs once again sends a message that’s hard for kids to unlearn — and one they’ll likely apply to themselves. The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding the subject of your child’s body altogether: “Instead of talking about your child’s or others’ physical attributes, instead praise his or her personal attributes such as strength, endurance, and kindness.”
Encourage their independence… and let go when it’s time.
When your child is a toddler, getting them to be independent and comfortable playing and exploring on their own is crucial. That’s the skill they need to be okay outside of your presence. Similarly, as your child becomes a teenager, it is their job to emotionally separate from you, carve out their own identity, and learn to stand on their own two feet.
Retiring from you prepares them for the not-so-distant future when they will live as adults without your constant guidance. (It’s biological. In fact, one study found that children can literally hear their parents less as they progress through their teenage years, largely because the greater rest of the world is calling.) The more confident your child feels that you’re okay , when they do things alone, the less restricted they feel – which gives them much less cause for rebellion.
let them be people
The groundbreaking 2001 MIT report, Raising Teens, offers a wealth of parenting advice for those raising adolescents, but one nugget of wisdom needs to be repeated: “Treat each teen as an individual, other than siblings, stereotypes, his or hers.” Past or your own past.” When we project the image of the moody, withdrawn teenager onto our children, we close all avenues of communication and understanding. If you want to stay connected with your child as they navigate the tricky waters of adolescence, focus on their unique thoughts, ideas, needs, and emotions.