Divorcing parents are court required to take parenting classes as part of the dissolution process in most states now. Because of this, we’ve been getting more and more calls from parents of teenagers asking if they can take our classes online to fulfill the court order, and if our programs address this age group. The answer is that many judges across the country do accept online parenting classes because they realize how difficult it can be to get to a weekly class when working and raising kids. However, we always suggest getting prior approval to double-check that it is okay with your particular judge or social worker. The second answer is yes; our classes are designed to address all ages and stages from the toddler to teen years.
Parenting a teen these days is no walk in the park. When our parents grew up, they were taught to be respectful to adults and to be seen but not heard. Punishments were often harsh and possibly physical and the children were almost never consulted in any decision-making process. Then in the 1960’s and 1970’s things changed as moms and dads realized they wanted to have closer relationships with their children and help them to grow up to be more confident individuals. The result of all of this is that today many teens have higher self-esteem and feel much more free to state what is on their mind. The negative side is that with this, parents and teachers also find themselves up against more disrespectful behavior than ever before.
As the parent of a teenager, it’s not only important to focus on raising independent thinkers and confident young adults but to also instill a sense of morals, empathy for others, and respectful behavior. A key factor in making this happen is to focus on your relationship throughout the teen years, just like you did when they were younger. And, to be a solid and constant sounding board to continue to help them distinguish right from wrong.
So, while you are letting them have their distance to begin to make their own decisions, some of the most frequent areas of conflict will include their level of performance at school, how much time they spend with the family verses their friends, their choice of friends, driving and curfews and alcohol and drug use. There are some things you can do as a parent to still stay close to your teen during these formative years and help keep them on track:
1. Make time to talk to your teen every day! This might be while you are driving him to an extra-curricular activity, over dinner and even late at night after they are done with homework. If you can’t seem to get your schedules together, try to participate in something they want to do like going for a jog, kicking the soccer ball around at the park or baking some cookies.
2. Listen and empathize with their feelings. Try to hold back from telling him what to do and how you think he should run his life, so he wants to keep coming to you with his daily issues.
3. Open your home to his friends. Welcome them with a smile even when they aren’t expected so they will want to hang out instead of going somewhere else.
4. Remember that when your teenager leaves the room in a storm, slams his bedroom door and hides out for hours, it’s not about you. It’s most likely about his own need for more sleep combined with hormones and the general angst of wanting to be accepted by his peers that teens are constantly facing. Don’t take it personally or let it break down your relationship. Find a better time to talk things through after a good nights rest, a good meal, or at a less stressful time.