There's an old myth that teenage girls are more difficult, moody and troublesome than boys, but the truth is, every child is different, and most parents face at least a few challenges during the teenage years. Try to remember that underneath that surly teenage boy is your adorable toddler. Teen boys need your love, empathy and acceptance even when they don't show it -- and perhaps most at those times.
If you're lucky, your teenage son still wants to tell you about his day, but most boys value privacy over long talks with a parent. Don't try to force your son to open up, but make yourself available. Right after school is usually a time when kids want to talk, especially if the talk comes with a plate of cookies or a sandwich. Another prime time for connecting is when you're driving in the car. Neither one of you can go anywhere and there are few distractions. To get the conversation rolling, share something about your day. Ask questions, but tread carefully. The slightest hint of judgment or criticism might make your son clam up. Use non-verbal communication to your advantage, as well. You can't make your son talk, but you can express your love through a gentle hug or hand on the shoulder.
The teen years mean changes in the balance of power. Your teen probably spends more time away from you now than he does with you and he's yearning for increasing independence. Acknowledge the changes that are inevitably occurring in your relationship with a comment such as, "I know you need more freedom now and sometimes it's hard for me to accept that you're growing up." At the same time, continue to provide boundaries to keep your teen safe. Non-negotiables should include curfews, drugs and alcohol, and driving, according to clinical psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba. Perhaps other issues, such as clothing, hair styles and after-school activities are open to discussion, within reason. Tell your teen the reasons for your rules and enforce logical and natural consequences if your teen fails to comply. If your teen comes home two hours after curfew, the natural consequence is he loses the car keys and can't go out the next weekend.
Teens are under tremendous negative pressure from peers and media influences to make choices that aren't in their best interest. Get to know your son's friends and gently encourage him to avoid kids who are getting into trouble. Set limits on the types of movies, music and games your son can participate in and explain why, according to KidsHealth. At the same time, replace those negative activities with more positive ones. Encourage your teen to get involved in something that interests him, such as sports, theater, music or computer classes. Structure activities on the weekend to keep your son engaged at home. Go out to lunch, go hiking or watch a movie. Meaningful work or service can sometimes pull teenagers out of their funk. Do a family project together. Family vacations offer extended time away from the distractions of peers and media, providing opportunities to reconnect at a deeper level.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and at no time is this more critical than during the teen years. Seek out and welcome the help of positive role models in the form of trustworthy neighbors, coaches, teachers and church youth leaders. Sometimes your son might not want to talk with you, but another adult can offer advice and direction.