Raising Teenagers

How to Raise Teenage Sons

Let your son explore his independence. According to KidsHealth.org, his teenage years are when he will assert his independence and transform from child to adult. By understanding that his many moods and opinions are his way of testing his independence, you can avoid additional conflicts. For example, understand that he is testing his independence by wanting to wear all black instead of his typical colored shirts. Avoid unnecessary conflict by letting him test it out rather than fighting him on it.

Encourage your son to express his emotions. According to William Pollack, author of the best-selling book, “Real Boys: Rescuing our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood,” your teenage son should not feel that he has to be tough all the time. Crying and expressing tender emotions are not the norm for teenage boys, but your son should feel comfortable showing emotions such as happiness, fear and sadness without fear of judgment.

Give him space, according to Pollack. You do want to be available to him, but you also want to give him enough room to explore his growing independence. This means ensuring he knows you are there for him physically and emotionally, but giving him the space to head to his room, shut the door, and sulk or celebrate until he’s ready to talk.

Talk to him about sex, according to KidsHealth. While you should have already had this talk with him, you need to keep talking to him about sex. Ask him what he knows and teach him what it means to practice safe sex. What you tell him is up to you, but he should know the basics, such as the risk of STDs and pregnancy, as well as how to stay protected.

Keep your eye open for the warning signs that parents need to be aware of, according to KidsHealth. The teen years are ones of experimentation. You need to recognize the signs of trouble, such as extreme changes in weight, problems sleeping, skipping school, ditching his old friends for a new group of friends, bad grades, mood swings and extreme personality changes. Those signs could be indications of mental or emotional problems, or drug or alcohol abuse.

Problems of Teenagers in Everyday Life

Social Problems

Social ostracism is a serious concern for teens. In school, for example, teens want to be accepted by their peers and will attempt to blend in by acting or dressing accordingly. This is fueled by a fear of rejection and isolation that occurs when some individuals are expelled from the group. This can be dangerous when the children decide they want to conform with unsavory cliques, such as gangs.

Bullying

Social problems, such as the failure to conform, can ultimately lead to bullying. This keeps teens in a state of fear from the physical or verbal abuse of their peers. It is an emotionally devastating experience that can affect their health, academic performance and self-esteem. Anxiety, depression, stress and suicide are all unfortunate results of bullying.

Emotional Problems

Although everyone experiences emotional problems, they can be particularly intense for teenagers. Teens are going through intense physical and emotional changes that often cause them to misbehave and clash with their parents. Parents may also compound the problem by trivializing their teens' feelings or dismissing them as "silly" or nothing to worry about.

Relationships

The physical and psychological changes during the teenage years inevitably lead to sexual attraction and relationships. One problem with teen dating is the risk of sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy. The heightened emotions experienced by teenagers can also lead to serious mental-health problems after a breakup. The rejection associated with a terminated relationship can cause severe depression or a sense of isolation.

What Are the Causes of Sadness in Teens?

Changes

The teenage years are filled with changes. Bodies and minds change as do relationships and family dynamics. All of these changes can overwhelm a teenager and cause feelings of sadness. Although teenagers might seem to strive for more independence with approaching adulthood, they might also fear them. It is important to remain supportive as teenagers sort out the changes they are facing and adjust to their new bodies and a new sense of self.

Hormones

Puberty brings changes to the mind and body that can cause sadness in some teens. The teenage years are characterized by a significant increase in sex hormones. Girls are subjected to increases in estrogen and progesterone. Teenage boys see a typical testosterone increase of 10 times the levels present before puberty. These hormonal shifts can cause emotional changes and turmoil.

Stress

Stress is a frequent source of sadness. Teens might face a tremendous amount of stress as they begin to carve out their place in the world. College and career decisions can be difficult and overwhelming. Teenagers often face pressure from parents, peers and even themselves to gain admittance to the school of choice. Conflicts with peers and parents can also be a consistent source of stress during the teen years. The newly found freedoms and responsibilities that come with being a teenager can also cause stress, sadness and loneliness. As decisions that were once made by parents and other caregivers become the responsibility of a teen, a sense of sadness and loss is a natural reaction.

Depression

Frequent or intense sadness might be a symptom of depression.
Frequent or intense sadness might be a symptom of depression.

It is not rare for a teenager to be sad. Unfortunately, sadness is quite common but it is important to ensure that frequent or intense sadness is not symptomatic of a deeper problem. Sadness can occasionally indicate depression. Some symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, memory loss, fatigue, difficulty with concentration and decision-making, sleep disturbances and appetite changes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It is critical that you seek professional help for a teen suffering from depression. A psychologist or psychiatrist should evaluate any teenager believed to be exhibiting signs of this serious illness.

Parent's Guide to Dealing with Teen Girls

Try to understand the changes that happen during the teen years and what your daughter is experiencing. Learn everything you can about teenagers and reflect on your own teenage years. In addition to undergoing physical changes, a teen’s brain develops during adolescence, giving her the ability to think abstractly, reason and socialize differently. Teens often argue as a way to exercise these new cognitive and social skills. Plus, as a teen undergoes changes physically and emotionally, she may also feel confused and self-conscious about her body.

Open the lines of communication. Positive, open communication fosters trust and starts with active listening. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that the parents who listen are the parents who are heard. Instead of finding faults during a conversation or immediately giving advice, listen to your daughter without judgment. Then reflect what your teen said to you by restating what she said in your own words or by asking clarifying questions. Show empathy, share your own experiences and offer constructive advice only when you have all the facts.

Choose your battles wisely. The teen years are when girls start finding their own identities and taking risks. During this time, your daughter may want to take risks in the form of trying out different fashions, wearing dark nail polish, socializing with boys, dying her hair various colors and experimenting with makeup. Instead of harping on her about harmless, temporary issues, save your battles for the serious issues that may come up, like those involving drugs, alcohol, sex or abusive relationships.

Set clear expectations and boundaries. Your teen may not always like "the rules," but they’re necessary. It’s important to remember that you’re her parent, not her friend. You must be clear and specific about what you deem acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and set appropriate rules and reasonable limits. Make sure your teen knows the consequences for breaking the rules, be ready and willing to explain your decisions, and consistently enforce the limits that you've put into place. In addition to correcting your teen daughter’s behavior and actions, tell her when you're proud that she's met or exceeded your expectations, which should reinforce her positive conduct.

What to Do With Rebellious Teenagers

The Reason Behind Rebellion

According to youth specialist and author of "Losing Control and Liking It," Tim Sanford, teenagers will almost always have a reason for doing something -- rebellion is rarely a result of irrationality or that common “rebel without a cause” mentality with which teenagers are so often branded. The struggle with dealing with a rebellious teen is not knowing the cause. Sanford proposes that parents search for the itch that results in the scratch.

Teens Don't Act Randomly

This approach can be implemented in almost all situations of the kind -- from your teen staying out all night and breaking his curfew to a decline in school performance. Sanford says that idea of human beings as acting purely randomly shouldn’t be taken seriously -- and as all people do, teens act based on one reason or another.

Gaining Independence

A lot of the time, parents might make the mistake of confusing the natural process of “growing-up” with rebelling without cause. Puberty does not simply come with physical changes; at this time, children also have a natural inclination toward independence. When your 16 year old challenges your demand that he be back home by midnight, the reason may have a lot to do with his desire for autonomy -- it is the process of “moving away” from parents and the shelter of home.

Don't Take Rebellious Behavior Personally

According to Psychology Today, children in their teens are often unsure of their place in the adult world and try to practice more adult roles on a continual basis as they grow physically and psychologically. This is an understandable statement; as teens move away from childhood, they start to become aware of their ever-increasing responsibilities -- from teachers, parents, older siblings and peers. For this reason, they will try to push the limits that are set for them in order to test themselves and their boundaries. This will, on the surface, appear as mindless rebelliousness -- but it should often try to be seen as the natural process of the teenager trying to find himself. After all, all adults have gone through that insecure, unsure world of the teenager.

Developmental Individuality

This is the process that therapists call “developmental individuating.” The process involves your child disconnecting from you, spreading his wings and gaining his independence, which is a positive process. Tell yourself this, and try to turn your teen’s often infuriating demands or actions into something positive.

Helping Teenagers With Independence

Responsibility

If you give teenagers responsibility, you are helping them with their independence and maturity. According to HealthyChildren.org, preparing teenagers for responsibility and independence in advance is helpful. Before your teen learns to drive, for example, take time to talk about road safety, and let him know you will keep an eye on his driving even after he's got his license.

Set Rules

Having a clear set of rules your teenager is expected to follow can help give her independence. These can be age-appropriate, such as setting curfew times, as well as general rules such as not allowing smoking or drinking. According to the Teen Help website, parents can discuss these rules with teenagers, let them know in advance what the consequences will be if they are broken, and take time to explain why the rules are for the teen's own protection and well-being.

Privacy

Respecting a teenager's privacy and need for space helps to give him feelings of independence and trust. Knock on his door before entering, and refrain from monitoring his phone calls or e-mails. The KidsHealth website suggests giving teenagers privacy, but if parents are concerned or worried about their teen, they should interfere.

Caution

The teenage years can be a vulnerable time, but it is helpful to give teenagers as much freedom as possible, although some caution is needed. KidsHealth suggests monitoring your teen's Internet and TV use to ensure she is safe. Friends can be particularly influential through the teen years, so it's a good idea to know your teen's friends and where they are going in advance.

How to Understand Teen Behavior

Learn as much as you can about the changes your teen is going through -- including the physical, mental and emotional changes. Read authoritative sources of information on teens, including magazines such as "Psychology Today" or "Parents" or websites such as MayoClinic.com or the website of the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education. As you study, you may begin to understand that the teen years are a time of changes in teens' motivation, attention and risk-taking -- all a result of changes in their brains, advises Dr. Stan Kutcher of TeenMentalHealth.org.

Foster open lines of communication well before the teen years. If you don't have an open relationship with your child from an early age, it will get harder to empathize with and understand her as she gets older. When you have good communication with your kids, you'll be able to talk with them about issues they may be having or the reasons behind certain behaviors. Your child's yearly physical exam is a perfect excuse to talk to your teen about her physical and emotional health, advises the Kids Health website.

Network with other parents with children going through the teen years at the same time. Find peers in your child's activities or find parenting seminars or groups in your community that will allow you to gain some new knowledge and perspective on this tumultuous time.

Talk to the guidance counselor or teachers at your teen's school to get insight into your teen's behaviors when you're not with her. In some cases, teens act much differently with you than they do with others -- and you may be surprised to see that your teen is pretty well-behaved outside your own home. If you're having serious behavioral issues with your teen, the school's guidance counselor may be able to point you to some valuable local resources to help you.

Tip

Help your teen make good choices about her health and safety, while at the same time encouraging her independence, advises psychologist Richard Epstein, in an article at NYParenting.com. Allowing your teen to make some decisions about her money, work or education may show her that you trust her and may mean she acts out against you less frequently.