Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity of working with children and teenagers. Besides the fact that I’ve worked as a counselor in a couple of schools, I also started a Non-Governmental Organization in 2010 where I worked mostly with children and teenagers. Part of the reason I picked an interest in children and teenagers was the fact that I didn’t really have a great experience being one myself. Also, I found that teenagers often felt the most comfortable with me.
How Can You Teenager Trust You?
Getting a child to trust you can be easy but getting a teenager to trust you, now that’s the war. As a parent, it can be quite difficult getting into the mind of your teenager as they sometimes intentionally keep you out. Because at that stage of their lives, they probably see you as this ancient person who just doesn’t get them. And it’s quite hard trying to persuade them otherwise.
This is quite frustrating as it can drive you crazy not knowing what’s going on in their lives. Especially with all the craziness going on in the world.
But with my experience in dealing with children and teenagers over the years, I found an effective strategy that could help you stay informed or at least properly guide your teenager. You might already know this strategy but I’d share it anyway.
Before we go further, I’d like to state that there are a few things you need to first consider and accept.
Things to Make Peace With as a Parent
- Your Teenager isn’t perfect — no one is. So stop expecting them to be.
- Your Teenager is no longer a child — meaning they can’t continue to need you as much as they did.
- Your teenager is human and would surely have human desires and emotions — including sexual desires.
- Your teenager is grown and has developed a mind of their own so they’re bound to disagree with you sometimes.
- No matter how close you are to your teenager, they would still keep some important things from you.
- You can’t control their every move, that in my opinion is terrible parenting.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what can you do to make sure they are properly guided?
Find Them A Trustworthy Mentor
Find a person who is relatable. It could be a relative of yours or someone with the morals which you’d love to instill in your teenager. Most preferably someone not so much older than them and someone of the same gender. The reason I say so is that it would be quite easier for them to relate with the mentor.
Also, I asked a few of my teenage friends why they felt so comfortable talking to me and quite a number of them said it was because they liked that I was young and felt I could get what they were feeling compared to their parents who they felt were too “old school” to understand them.
For some years now, I’ve been able to help out a few families in mentoring their teenagers and the best part is that I always try to carry the parents along.
That way, the teenagers never feel alone or feel like they can’t talk to anyone. They come to me, and I carefully decern when how to present important concerns to their parents and also plan with the parents on the best way to handle sensitive situations.
Things To Never Do
Here are things you should never do especially when the mentor informs you about an unpleasant thing about your teenager:
Never Assume You Know It All
I have come across quite a number of parents who think they got the parenting thing all figured out and they usually get defensive whenever there’s a third party trying to tell them how to raise their children. I totally understand this but I believe that when it comes to parenting, we all need all the help we could get. Anyone could be a parent but being a great parent should be the goal. That is why I believe it’s necessary to get rid of your ego and actually ask for help from knowledgeable people and also books. The priority should be your teenager.
Never Freak Out
This is quite important as I know lots of parents who are guilty of this. How do you expect your child to open up to you and tell you things when you freak out at the very least information.
The moment you freak out, you’ve ruined the chances of your teenager being more open with you. And as a parent, it’s hard not to freak out when your teenager tells you about things like their first kiss or their sexual desires.
These are inevitable feelings that every teenager gets — it’s part of life! and they might want to talk to someone about it but they probably won’t feel comfortable talking about it with you if you freak out easily. If this is the case, It doesn’t mean you’re not close to your children or anything as such, it just means they’d rather talk to someone else and that’s okay.
That’s where a good mentor is needed. You need a young trusted person who would help guide your teenager and also inform you of necessary things that you need to know about your teenager — since they aren’t sworn to any secrecy.
Don’t Tell On The Mentor
This is another thing you should never do. I once told a mother something her teenager told me in confidence — not as a counselor though, just one of the teenagers I mentor. When I told her, she not only freaked out and punished the teenager for her action, she also told her it was I who had informed her about it.
That discouraged the young girl from telling me anything else as she feared I’d end up telling her parents. Sincerely I regretted informing the mother but I knew I had to because it was necessary for the wellbeing of the teenager.
If your teenager’s mentor tells you something important about your teenager, no matter how bad you think it is, never let your teenager know it was the mentor who told you. Also, no matter what the mentor tells you, as long as you heard it from the mentor, avoid shaming the teenager for making a bad decision — for instance, if you find out from the mentor that your teenager had done something bad in school and he or she confided in the mentor and the mentor somehow told you because it was necessary to do so, try not to shame your teenager.
If you do so, you’d discourage the child from talking to not just you but also the mentor as well. And that’s a loss because you’d probably be completely shutout by your teenager and that’s quite risky if you ask me.
If you aren’t okay with the idea of getting a mentor for your teenager, or you just can’t find a suitable person to mentor them, then you can get a guidance counselor. You don’t have to wait till your teenager becomes rebellious or troubled to get him or her a counselor.
Stop beating yourself up for not connecting with your teenager on a deeper level. Even though there are parents who are lucky enough to connect with their teenagers and have them tell them practically everything, it’s not so bad if yours doesn’t, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent or anything like that.
Your teenager needs someone to talk to and if they can’t talk to you, you can’t force them to, can you? it’s okay to bring in a trusted third party. As a parent, it’s up to you to create a safe environment for your children to express themselves in the best way possible.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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