Our daughter, Janelle, is soon graduating from Phillips Academy Andover. She is an outstanding daughter and we love her very much.
I asked her, while we were sitting in Starbucks, what advice she would give to parents on how to raise teenagers, given that she’s the ripe old age of 18 and headed off into the wild blue yonder.
This is what dear Janelle said, blunt and raw. I have not edited this, even if I did squirm a bit.
Advice To Parents On How To Raise Teenagers from Janelle.
1. Only ask questions that you want the answer to. Don’t say, “You didn’t do that, did you?” Because of course we’re going to say no. If you don’t want to know the truth, don’t ask.
2. Never shut down on an idea your kid has about future plans, ideas, or thoughts (Unless, of course, you believe it to be a true danger to their physical or mental health).
3. When your kid is a young child, it’s your turn to speak and tell them about your ideals, morals, and values, and how to treat other people, but when she’s a teenager, you’ve created the foundation, you can adjust that foundation some, but it’s already there. When she’s a teenager, it’s your turn to listen.
4. It’s important to keep your teenager’s mistakes in perspective. Teenagers experiment. They explore. Teenage-hood is the time to make mistakes. Know when to support them and when to punish. For example, if you catch your kid having a beer, don’t flip out. That’s the time to talk to them. If they’re snorting coke, now THAT’S a problem. But if you punish all the time for little things, then when they’re really having a problem, like they’re at a party with bad stuff going on and want to call you or if they get caught up in something big they shouldn’t be involved in, then they won’t come to you for help. You want your kid to come to you when they need help. Trust me.
5. Be careful not to be only the punisher. Understand that some things shouldn’t be punished, they should be discussed. For example, if you catch your kid watching porn, that’s the time to discuss the exploitative nature of the industry, not to bluster and yell. I would caution to never act disgusted with your kid, either. Other things, like sneaking off in the middle of the night, would me more deserving of a logical punishment such as being grounded for a few days.
6. Never read our diaries or journals.
7. Sometimes teenagers just need to be left alone. Don’t take it personally. They’re just figuring themselves out. But they need to know that you are ALWAYS there if they need you.
8. Never insult who your kid is dating unless they’re real trouble or it’s serious and your kid is going to get married. It’s their relationship, stay out of it. Don’t critcize their friends unless there’s a serious problem. Teenagers are very loyal to their friends.
9. Don’t criticize them for dropping friendships even if you’re friends with the parent of the kid they dropped.
10. Sex should not be punished, but discussed. Send your kid to college with condoms. Don’t be naive. If your kid is in high school, especially if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, I don’t care what grade, you need to have serious discussions about birth control. Not just about abstinence. It should start off with, “I trust your judgment,” but then, “this is a condom, use it.” Sex can be life and death. And for pregnancy, you never want anyone to feel backed into a wall. Pregnancy can make daughters make life changing decisions on their own and that’s a disaster.
11. Make it clear that you value honesty above all else.
12. Don’t force your religion on them. If they want to explore another religion, support it.
13. Support travel.
14) Your relationship with your teen should be open. There should be a lot more laughter than anger. You should talk together often. You should make your expectations clear. You should allow your child to discuss with you when the expectations are unclear or if they think they’re wrong.
15. Do things together like go out for coffee, go on walks. Pick something you’re both interested in and do it. If your kid is interested in cooking, sign up for a cooking class with them. Spend time together.
16. The most important thing for your kid is to know that you are on their side, and you are always there.
17. Recognize that your years left living together are counting down and enjoy your kids.
18. Make sure they know that you love them unconditionally, all the time.
Written by Janelle Lamb