I worry about my future teenage kids. Or rather I worry about the kids I have now becoming teenagers. It’s a cruel world out there, and perhaps cruellest of all on teenagers. The high school yard can be a dog-eat-dog environment and there are so many pressures and pitfalls to negotiate.
On an evening, as the bedtime stories draw to a close and their heads rest sleeply in my arms, I yearn with all my being to keep them in this safe, naïve, cosy little bubble.
But life doesn’t work like that. As parents, our ultimate aim is to prepare these little ones to leave us!
The start of things to come
The bigger your children get, the bigger the problems they face. I realised this when Jenny, 7, came home from school 2 weeks ago having fallen out with her best friend.
The quarrel lasted eight days!
Eight mornings of forlorn looks as I dropped her at the classroom door. Eight break-times hoping she found someone to play with in the playground. Eight lunchtimes wondering who she would be sitting next to. Eight pick-ups eagerly awaiting news that it was over, only to be greeted with a shake of the head.
And this is only the start of it. My future teenage kids will have much bigger quarrels to face; they’ll last longer, be more personal, feel more isolating, impact more deeply.
And I probably won’t be there to help.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely want to be there to help. But what can I do when they’re facing it alone at school?
They might not even want me to be involved. Yes my future teenage kids will probably think I don’t understand. They will think that their problems are new to them, just as I thought mine were new when I was a teenager. And yes, in some ways the format is different (e.g. social media), but the themes and stories are decades old.
But they won’t see it like that!
Biggest fears for my future teenage kids
When it comes down to it, I guess there are 5 things that I fear most for my future teenage kids:
- Negotiating social media
- Low self-confidence
- Pressure to fit in
- Facing things alone
- Bad choices
As a blogger, I like to think that I know how to play the social media game, but I am sure teenage social media is a whole different ball game.
My Instagram feed is full of cute baby photos and quotes about empowering women. I suspect my future teenage kids will be seeing lot of pouting and provocative poses. They’ll be exposed to the latest fashion must-haves and have a 24 hour, running update of who is doing what with whom…!
That can lead to a lot of self-confidence issues, at a time when kids are still trying to work out who they really are. I worry that they will either retreat into themselves or do silly things in an effort to create some bravado… and I don’t think either option is particularly great!
I don’t want them to feel alone or that they can’t come to me with their problems. I know my future teenage kids will have secrets, and that they’ll learn to confide in their friends more than me, but I hope they’ll always know that I’m on their side. I hope they never feel too scared to share something with me, even if they’ve made some bad choices.
5 things to do immediately to help our future teenage kids
But what can we do? As parents, is there anything we can do to make those teen years a bit easier?
Well honestly, I think there is, and it starts right NOW, while they’re still small!
When my kids were tiny, we would walk past their future school school and talk excitedly about going there one day – I was already preparing them for that next obstacle even though it was several years away. And in the same way, NOW is he time for preparing them to be teenagers of the future…!
So here are the 5 things that you can do now, to make those teenage years a little less bumpy…
1) Set technology boundaries
Social media is everywhere and I’m sure, by the time my future teenage kids are here, it will have infiltrated even more of our lives. That can make it quite overwhelming, especially if you are experiencing negativity on social media.
By having technology boundaries now, they learn that there is life outside of technology and that it’s good to switch off from it.
Your 4 year old probably doesn’t have a Facebook account to turn off, but you can teach the principles by limiting their TV time or tablet time. You can also have boundaries yourself – we have a “no phones at the table” rule so hubby and I purposefully leave our phones behind when we sit down to eat. By sticking to this rule now, I am hoping that we are teaching our kids to stick to it when they have phones of their own.
2) Develop positive inner dialogue
The way that we talk to our children will teach them how to talk to themselves. If we treat them with respect and value, then they will learn that they are worthy of respect and value.
I like to take this one step further and actively develop a positive inner dialogue with my children – every morning at school drop off, I get them to repeat three positive things about themselves. Here are a few of the things we might say:
- I am kind
- I am loved
- I am a maths wizard
- I am a super speller
- Mummy and daddy love me lots and lots
- I’m going to have a great day
- I am a good friend
By getting them to say it to themselves, rather than me just saying it at them, they are learning how to speak positively to themselves and think positively about themselves. This will be a great advantage to any future teenage kids.
3) Encourage discussion
I am fully aware that my future children will make choices that I will not agree with. Maybe their fashion sense will be questionable or I won’t approve of their friendship groups. But we all know that’s part of growing up.
But right now, if we dictate to our 5 year olds what they can and cannot do, they will not learn the skills needed to have a discussion. By offering choices now and talking over options now, I hope that my future teenage children will be able to think about their decisions and choose wisely.
I also want them to be able to explain their choices to me so that we can discuss together rather than yelling and screaming at one another.
4) Listen to the small things
This leads on very nicely from point 3 – we need to listen to our children! Yes it might seem like a total waste of time to stop and look at a ladybird when we’re running late for school, but these things are important to little ones.
Wherever possible, make time for the things that are important to them. If we can listen to the small things now, they will trust us with the big things in the future. They will know that we are interested in them and willing to give them our full attention.
This also ties in with creating a feeling of self-worth – they will learn that their ideas are valuable and that they have something to contribute.
5) Teach individuality
One of my overriding memories of high school was the pressure to conform. Teenagers face more peer pressure than any other group and it impacts everything:
- The way they dress
- The food they eat
- The language they use
- The places they hang out
- The people they talk to
- The hobbies they pursue
This desire to fit in isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we all succumb to it in one way or another. But when our kids are so desperate to fit in that they compromise on safety or values, it becomes serious.
They may put themselves at risk or put themselves in a vulnerable position. They may end up in an awkward or even dangerous situation. They may be tempted to bully someone else in order to assert their place in a particular friendship group. It can be a difficult world to negotiate.
So let’s start teaching our young children about individuality. Let’s encourage them to be themselves and pursue their own dreams. Little ones can be extremely empathetic – let’s nurture that quality in them and teach them to stand up for those who are unable to defend themselves.
If we can instill a duty in our children to stand up for their values and a willingness to go against the crowd in order to do the right thing, that will give them the tools they need to face the high school social scene.
So I hope you can see that the fight for our future teenage kids begins right now! What we do impacts the rest of their lives and being mindful of what is ahead can help us better prepare them for the future.
What things do you do to prepare your kids for the future? Do you have happy memories of being a teenager or was it a difficult time for you? What are your biggest fears for your future teenage kids? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks!
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