As my children enter the teenage years, I need to develop my parenting to meet their developing needs. So what are the developing needs of the teenager (and pre-teenager)?
The primary need of the teenager is to develop independence. It is in this stage of life that the child begins to think more abstractly and rationally. They become increasingly aware of how others see them. They develop their own moral code and begin to assert themselves as individuals. This can result in drama, emotional outbursts (and not only from the teen!) and outright rebellion.
So what can I do as a parent to encourage my teen to independence, while still molding the development of her morals?
Joe White in Sticking With Your Teen states that you need to walk alongside your teen to help them develop. Find out what your child loves to do and do it with them. By joining her in her training, I have more time to spend with her. She tells me different things when we are cooling down after a bike ride than when we are at the table with the family. When I am physically tired, I am more willing to sit down and listen to her. Other times, I find myself thinking about all the things that I could be doing. Or else I am doing things and not willing to stop and listen.
Washington State Early Outreach Partnership also encourages modeling and encouraging physical activity. Training for triathlon with my girl definately fits the bill! “Exercise will help teens burn excess energy, strengthen developing muscles, and sleep better at night. It may also help teens become more comfortable in their changing bodies.” [Adolescent Growth and Development, Novella Ruffin, Extension Specialist, Virginia State University Cooperative Extension, Publication 350-850, 2009] Perhaps I have been a little slow on the uptake here, because she has been the one trying to get me off the couch more. She has realized that she needs the physical activity and that she feels better after. I have finally figured it out, and I don’t think that it is too late.
Being with my daughter and open to discuss what she wants to will help us to maintain a good relationship which is the basis for her development. I have noticed that having to wait for me has made her more considerate of others. We are starting to notice a little compassion in her dealings with her younger sister.
However, this creates another dilemma for me! I have 3 children. By training 3 times each week with my 12 year old, I have less time for the others. My 10 year old daughter comes training with us as well, which makes for girl bonding time. I will have to consciously make time for my son as he becomes more independent. Being aware of what needs to be done is half the battle, however, and I am not in this alone.
I am excited to watch my children develop and grow.