Planning Ahead for Your Young Teens – Paving the Way for the All Important 18th Year

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birthday 18It’s hard to fathom that your twelve-year-old or fifteen-year-old will reach their 18th year when you’re coping with the day to day. But understanding that crucial age of 18 before it happens enables you to guide your child through this passage.

Respecting Your Teen

Part of being a teenager is recognizing your parents don’t always have the answers. While they act sometimes like they don’t want your advice, they often depend on it.  But as they get older, they learn from experience and want their parents to respect that they need to make their own choices, make mistakes, and pick themselves up.

If you show a young teen you respect them as they are going through the teen years leading up to 18, they have built a great deal of confidence when it becomes time to begin to more substantially contribute to society.

If their decisions are listened to with interest non-judgmentally, they learn they can trust not only you but themselves. Discuss their choices explaining why you agree or disagree and point out alternatives for them to consider. If you collaborate, they will feel respected.

Developing Values

By 18, your teen has developed their own set of values and beliefs, but still looks to you for confirmation of their decisions. If during the years preceding the 18th year, you are open to discussion of values that may be personal with regard to their friends or even political with regard to society, they will know you expect them to think beyond their own needs to the needs of others.  These kinds of discussions go a long way in your teen developing autonomy, the hallmark of the 18th year.

Brain Development

During the teen years there is a great deal of brain development. Their brains have reached full size but the hardwiring that helps them make positive decisions, have strong relationships and be in control of their emotions are still in the process of being developed.

Tips on Parenting Your Teens as They Approach Their 18th Year

  1. Listen carefully to the details of what they say. Younger and older teens often don’t feel they are heard.
  2. Support your teen even when they make mistakes. They know you’re there for them when they succeed, but they need to know you believe they can falter and regroup.
  3. Teens want to feel valued. Notice when they are kind to others and contribute to their communities.
  4. Recognize when your teen steps out of his or her comfort zone. They want respect for overcoming obstacles and meeting new challenges.
  5. Speak openly when you see your child master new skills intellectually and socially. They need the recognition to believe in themselves.
  6. Teens can understand adult feelings and experiences. Don’t shut them out when they may want to contribute to political and societal discussions.
  7. Remind them that no one at any age, knows all the answers. Encourage them to have new experiences, stretch their abilities, and be open to learning from others, even from their parents!
  8. Collaborate with teens. Make decisions and solve problems together. Make decisions with them, not for them.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with an upcoming book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, to be released Oct. 13, 2015.  All these tips are fully elaborated as part of gaining Parental Intelligence.

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