Notoriously difficult to understand and communicate with, teenagers can be a real handful to dads who’re hoping to get through to them to help them through the angst and disruption of puberty. Perhaps you remember how it was for you when your parents threw their hands up in dismay as made grumpy, adolescent-fuelled rants. Supporting your teenage children at a time where they are experimenting with more independence should be an exercise in nearness and distance as your child dictates. Here are some issues that teenagers regularly face, and tips to help you communicate with them on these important issues.
Whether it’s because of their increasing social and conscious world or simply the fact that they’re experiencing particularly acute emotions at this stage join their young lives, you will often be able to detect as a father when your child is not quite right in an emotional sense. They may be withdrawn, agitated, angry or sad, and it’s up to you to decide exactly how to help. Teenagers are stereotypically grumpy and bad at acting on parental advice, but you can get through to them if you’re delicate.
One option, of course, is to be extremely hands-off, and you may find this is the best option in terms of your child’s emotional independence development while also avoiding unnecessary conflict in your own home. They may feel it’s none of your business if you do ask what’s wrong. On the whole though your instinct will be to try and get to the bottom of their emotional distress, and in that case finding the right time and environment to ask how they’re feeling and if they’d like to share anything with you might be the best option. Making them feel like such emotional concessions are optional will make young adults more confident and expressing themselves.
Yes, that awkward moment eulogised in hundreds of films: the father-son conversation about sex, love and consent. It might seem a very short time since you were holding hands with your son in a playground, or helping them bathe, but now they’re going through puberty you’re going to have to find a way of having ‘the chat’ with your young adult offspring about sexual education. At this point it’s important to note the delicacy around a developing sexuality; ensure you don’t make your child feel uncomfortable or unaccepted if they’re discovering that they are gay, bisexual or indeed asexual.
In any case, certain rules apply for all sexual encounters, like the rule of consent and respect, which it’s best to impress on your child as early as possible as they approach sexual maturation. The same goes for protection from pregnancy and STDs – uncomfortable topics, but necessary to broach even if the response is something along the lines of ‘gross, dad, shut up’!
You may feel like all of your advice falls on defiantly deaf ears – or ears simply reluctant to talk about sex with their dad, as you’ll understand – but having at least one conversation about sexual health will get any worries out of the way and could open a continuing dialogue with your child about this area of their life.
In the social media age of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the rest, body image has become a huge factor in the relative happiness and confidence of young teens. This have been proven by a number of studies that highlight especially the plight of young girls in this area, who feel pressured to upload selfies in an environment where likes and visibility are key. Be as vigilant as you can about this type of body anxiety without being invasive, as in the worst cases it can lead to depression and anxiety or eating disorders. Reading some material about how young people interact online may help here.
Furthermore, as teenagers grow through puberty, their bodies change dramatically. As a father, you may feel that it’s your responsibility to communicate with your son over his bodily changes while it’s the mother who should discuss her daughter’s bodily changes, but it’s entirely up to you.
Shaving tips from father to son are always appreciated, while the testosterone levels that can lead to spots and acne can be countered by medication that you’ll be able to find and buy online – more info can be found here. Teenagers do much of the negotiation of their changing looks on their own, but being there to offer advice and emotional support is a sensible option to help, especially if your child may be being bullied.
More than ever, teenagers make mistakes. It’s because they’re dabbling for the first time in making their own decisions, being independent, and finding who they are and what they stand for. It’s important as a dad to maintain some form of discipline of course, but you should give a huge amount of leeway and benefit of the doubt to your teenage son or daughter whether they come home late, you find they’re smoking or drinking, or that they’ve been foul or unpleasant to someone. You’ll know how to react with each case, but remembering the turbulence and experimentation that are part of puberty and adolescence should help you be more patient and benevolent.
That’s not to say that there aren’t lessons to impress on your teenagers after they screw up in some way – actually, this is one of the most important parts of being a dad for an errant teen. Sitting them down in an atmosphere of gentle reprimand and advice will provide them with your worldly-wise advice, whether it be on behaviour towards friends, treating at school, or struggling with their identity. Reach a point of mutual understanding and respect, and you’ll be helping them make far better decisions in the future.
Teenagers are wonderful, creative and increasingly independent at the same time as being oftentimes impenetrable and difficult. Nonetheless, these tips should help dads who’re looking to find the right parenting balance as their children grow into young adults.