Last week, we introduced the topic of what adolescents need from their fathers (and, as many readers pointed out, mothers as well). That was just the beginning of the list. Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you parent your teen.
Encourage exercise and good nutrition. Your teen may be too big to wrestle with, but that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be active. Teens — boys and girls — need to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day to build strength, flexibility, and bone mass. Unfortunately, during the teen years, exercise time declines while screen time increases — and so does the risk of obesity, which is about 50 percent higher than it was just two decades ago. Make regular physical activity mandatory, and set a good example by being physically active yourself. If she’s interested, invite her to join your softball team, swim or run with you, play racquetball together, or even tag along to your karate class.
Read. Reading is an essential skill and you should do everything you can to promote it. Encourage him to spend time reading every day and make sure he sees you with a book in your hand. Tell each other about what you’re reading, even if it’s just a story from the newspaper. Encourage him to read on his own. Books can help him learn about cultures, find new role models as he moves away from us, and start formulating his philosophy on life.
Encourage creative thinking. When dealing with any kind of problem, focus on these four steps: identify the problem, brainstorm possible solutions — even ones that sound silly, identify the best and the worst options, and implement the best one.
Respect their feelings. A few years ago, your teen though you were the coolest thing going. But now you’re more of an embarrassment. If your son (or daughter) has four or five friends over for a slumber party, don’t even think about trying to hang out with them. If you’re driving the carpool and he wants you to pick up or drop off around the corner, do it (as long as it’s safe). You may also need to cut back on kissing him in public.
Find common interests. Take an interest in her activities — whether it’s hiking, biking, video games, art, movies, music, sports, camping, going to museums, or something else — but don’t fake. Try to arrange one evening every week to spend time alone with each of your kids, especially the teens.
Know when to listen and when to talk. You’re a mentor now so keep your unsolicited advice to a minimum. Your teen may get furious at you for a perfectly well-intentioned offer of help — not because she doesn’t need the help, but because she doesn’t want it rubbed in her face that she can’t do without it. Exceptions to the advice rule are for certain tough topics like drugs, sex, and other non-negotiable health and safety issues. Let them know they can always talk to you and that you’ll listen in a non-judgmental way.
Next week, we’ll finish up our list.