As your child gets older, his or her needs can radically change. For parents that often leads to a difficult choice between giving them more freedom and cracking down on their more challenging behaviour.
Even if you’ve gone from sort-it-out mum to feeling like a bystander as they go their own way, you can find ways to add a little fun and freedom to their home lives, without making them feel suffocated or confused.
These five ideas should make them feel comfortable and encouraged, while encouraging them to see family as a safe haven where they’re understood.
1. A space for friends
Teens need time together to explore being adults without you making them self-conscious, but there’s no doubt that inviting friends to your home is preferable to letting them hang out on street corners.
If your child doesn’t have a big bedroom, try assigning one night each week to give them free reign in the lounge to invite mates over. Instead of a standard dinner, they can order in pizza and experiment with non-alcoholic drinks. And by setting boundaries for the whole family, you should cut down on arguments about whose turn it is.
2. Training day
Allow your teen to put school work aside for a day and invite a friend over for a fun mini boot-camp – let them raid your or your partner’s creams and lotions, suggest booking in an activity such as swimming or cycling, and encourage them to devise their own post-exercise menu for lunch and dinner.
3. Extreme fun
Teenagers want to push their new found freedom to its limits. Help them get this out of their system in a safe way by joining a sports club where they can develop new skills whilst doing something thrilling. They might even find they excel at it.
Something like fencing, climbing or tennis involve a bit of glamour that they might find appealing, encouraging them to persist, and use up a lot of that pent-up energy. Even boxing, while it might look dangerous, is in fact very disciplined, safe and empowering.
For less sporty types, a youth club that you can check out in advance, to make sure it’s safe and well regulated, can be a great way to help them socialise with their peers in a less risky environment. Alternatively, a drama, music or art group will encourage their creativity and can make them less self-conscious.
4. Cook up a storm
Teenagers can be very concerned about whether there’s ‘any point’ to what they’re doing – ever heard them complain about algebra for example? One thing you can teach them and do together that will make lots of sense to them is cooking.
Whether they’re planning to go to university or college, or straight into work, at some point they will need to understand how to make their own healthy, balanced and affordable food, and this is something you can help with – especially if they decide to be vegetarian or vegan.
Get them involved with making dinner at the weekend, and teach them some ‘signature’ dishes that they can take ownership of, so they’re more willing and proud to cook them for the family.
You can also give your teen more power over their own diet by designating kitchen tools or a shelf in the cupboard to them specifically. For example, buy them their own smoothie maker – an easy, healthy way for teenagers to improvise their own breakfasts or snacks from the fridge.
Be careful, though, not to put any nutritional pressure on them, and keep an eye on their eating to make sure they’re not developing any issues with foods.
5. Involve a cool relative
Your teenager probably connects happily with a cousin or an aunt or uncle they deem to be far more hip than boring old mum and dad. Invite this relative for a weekend and make sure they get at least some quality time with your teen. It’s a great way of keeping your teenager close to family.
If they live nearby, try setting up the odd outing or dinner between them, whether it’s going to a gig, going shopping or just going for lunch. The more you can maintain this relationship, the more likely they are to feel they have a confidante in the family.
Do you have any tips for keeping your teenagers on the straight and narrow? Why not share your experiences and ideas with the Supersavvyme community, using the comments box below?