Planning for the teenage years: why it’s a good idea

It’s normal to be apprehensive as your child enters the teenage years. It’s a time of great change for your child and your relationship with him, and you’ll need to adapt your parenting as you go. But it doesn’t have to be a negative experience for you or your child, especially if you plan.

When parents are asked which period in their children’s development makes them the most apprehensive, the teenage years top the list. But 70% of teenagers report having positive relationships with their families – so it’s really not all bad!

Understanding changes and challenges in the teenage years

Before your child enters the teenage years, it’s a good idea to learn about the physical changes and social and emotional changes your child will go through. This can help you understand changes in your child’s behaviour and your relationship.

Thinking back to your own adolescence can help you relate to your child too. Try to remember what you went through, and how you felt. Many of your feelings and experiences will be the same as your child’s, so you can use this understanding to build your relationship.

It’s also good to try changing the way you think about teenage behaviour. For example, arguments with your child over day-to-day issues like household chores, internet use and social media can be tough. But it can help to remember that they’re a sign that your child is seeking independence, developing autonomy and confidence, and wanting to take responsibility for herself.

No matter what you do, you probably won’t be able to avoid some conflict with your child. Keep in mind that conflict during the teenage years is a side effect of your child’s journey towards independent young adulthood.

And it might also help to remember that this stage of your child’s life won’t last forever.

Handling your child’s need for independence and other teenage issues

Becoming an independent young adult is one of your child’s main jobs in the teenage years.

So don’t be surprised if you have to handle some tricky behaviour and emotional issues as your child makes this transition. For example, you might find yourself dealing with disrespectful behaviour, risk-taking, alcohol and other drugs, first relationships, social media, body image and so on.

It might help to think about some of these issues ahead of time and plan how you’ll respond.

A positive relationship with your child is the best foundation for supporting your child’s independence. That’s because your love and support help your child feel confident to discover who he is and work out what he wants to do with his life. It can help to focus on having open communication, a strong connection, mutual respect and trust.

Boundaries, limits and rules in the teenage years

Clear family rules about behaviour, communication and socialising are an important part of supporting independence. That’s because rules, boundaries and consequences set safe limits for your child as she explores new interests, makes new friends and spends more time away from your family.

As your child gets older, he can have more say in your family rules. And the rules will probably need to change as your child gets older and more independent.

Children benefit from parents who are firm about limits – but who are also warm and accepting of their child’s need to be an individual.

Negotiating with your teenage child

You might find that you and your child sometimes disagree about the boundaries, rules and limits. This means that negotiation will probably become more important in the teenage years.

You and your child might also need to use problem-solving steps or conflict management strategies to find solutions that suit you both.

Monitoring your teenage child

Monitoring can help you balance your child’s need for independence and your need to know your child is safe.

Monitoring is about being aware of what your child is doing and who she’s with. It doesn’t mean watching your child’s every move. It can be easier to introduce monitoring before the teenage years arrive – this will help your child get used to it. It can also lower the chance that your teenage child will resist monitoring.

Planning for the teenage years with a child with autism spectrum disorder

If you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you might have a few more things to consider when you’re planning for the teenage years. You could start by having a look at some of these articles:

Looking after yourself during your child’s teenage years

How you parent during the teenage years depends on more than your child and how you interact with him. Your own wellbeing and your other relationships can influence how you relate to your child.

This means that it’s important to take good care of yourself by:

  • making time for things you enjoy
  • spending time with your partner if you have one
  • eating well
  • doing some physical activity
  • getting enough rest.

Looking after your own physical and mental wellbeing in these ways can help you stay calm and consistent, and deal better with any stress and conflict that come up.

Getting help

Moving into the teenage years can be difficult for some children and their parents.

If you or your child get distressed or upset from constant conflict, or you’re concerned about other issues like depression or anxiety, it’s best to seek advice from a psychologist or counsellor. Your GP will be able to help you find someone, or your child’s school might be able to recommend someone for you and your child to talk to.

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