LIFE

Tips For Dealing With The Teenager In Your House

If all else fails, change the wifi password.

18/08/2016 6:16 AM AEST | Updated 18/08/2016 6:33 AM AEST
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Dimitri Otis
It's all fun and games until someone confiscates the wifi password...

Aside from the 'terrible twos', there's arguably no time more feared in a parent's life than the teenage years.

Raging hormones, social discovery, peer pressure and an increasing workload can all lead to turning what was your sweet, respectful son or daughter yesterday into a veritable nightmare today. And while there's hope on the horizon (things do improve on the other side, we promise!) there's still a few years, underage parties and arguments about putting the bins out to slog through first.

So how do you negotiate the playing field when it comes to your teenager (who undoubtedly knows best)?

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Social media

"One of the biggest issues between teenagers and their parents is the use of social media and screens," Sydney Child Psychologist Andrew Greenfield told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's obviously a huge issue in terms of privacy, and a lot of parents insist on being Facebook friends with their teenager and being a part of their teen's social media presence. It can be a huge area of potential conflict."

As for whether or not it's fair for parents to expect children to accept their friend request, Greenfield says "probably not, to tell the truth".

"But that's assuming they don't have anything to hide. I think a parent can be friends with their child on social media without having to comment on everything they do, which is an obvious source of embarrassment for them."

Where parents and teens may be able to meet in the middle ground is if an agreement is reached where, say, the teenager doesn't have to be 'friends' with their parents on social media... but they do have to show their parents their accounts if requested.

Maria Teijeiro
Social media use can be a bone of contention between teens and parents.

"I think it's fair to request, at any point in time, to have a look to see what's going on," Greenfield said. "By allowing you to have access to their social media accounts whenever you want, they are showing they have nothing at all to hide.

"If they're not prepared to do that, then I think a discussion needs to be had, from a safety aspect as well. Parents should have some sort of access.

"You might need to enforce some kind of action like setting up specific blocks from certain websites, or constantly changing the wireless password so your kids can't access the home internet without your permission."

Communication

"Often teens don't want to communicate with their parents, but parents definitely want to, which can make the entire process quite difficult," Greenfield said.

"I am all about the fact communication is certainly important for teenagers. It needs to happen. But there also needs to be a right time and the right mood.

"In approaching the business of communication, parents can maybe be a little bit more mindful in having respect for the teenager as well. Respect has to work both ways.

"Don't ask them a million questions when they have friends over, for instance. Be mindful of when you talk to them. You can even go and play a round of golf or a round of putt putt and talk to them that way. It doesn't have to be just sitting around a dinner table, where the child might feel more threatened."

PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura
Communication doesn't have to mean having A Big Talk At The Dinner Table. Instead you might choose to do an activity together to take the pressure off.

Failing that, Greenfield says it might help to bring in a 'neutral' third party.

"A family member or cousin or uncle might help in this regard," Greenfield said. "They can then let you know if there's anything major you need to know about."

Contact

Growing up means more independence, but parents understandably still want to be able to contact their children if they need to.

"There's the obvious thing in terms of teenagers going out and you, as a parent, wanting to know where they are that they are contactable," Greenfield said.

"Often parents are the ones footing the bill for mobile phones etc. My view on this is, if a child doesn't cooperate with the rules in place, then they don't get to have the phone in the first place. If they want the luxury having the phone, they have to use it in a way that benefits both parties. There is a level of respect that has to go on there."

Nick Dolding
And on top of all the hormones, there's still schoolwork to deal with.

Schoolwork

"Another huge issue is schoolwork and the increasing pressure that involves," Greenfield said. "Schoolwork can be a major area of contention.

"Again it's about making sure you have checks and balances in place. One quite old-fashioned idea -- which I actually still think works really well -- is having a visual whiteboard with all the work a child has to do and getting them to rub off their tasks when they're done.

"That way, you are able to visually see what they have and haven't done, and you don't have to nag them about it every three seconds.

"I think it's also important to let your child know what is expected, that a certain amount of work needs to happen per week and so on, as long as you're being reasonable as well.

"Discussing with your child what they think is reasonable and what is not is also a good way to go about setting boundaries that are deemed fair by the both of you."

"There's nothing wrong with being a friend but first and foremost you are a parent, and you have to act like one.

Other pointers

Maybe don't tell your teenager this, but even parents make mistakes.

"A huge one is a parent trying to be their teenager's best friend," Greenfield said. "There's nothing wrong with being a friend but first and foremost you are a parent, and you have to act like one.

"In saying that, you want to let your teenager know they can talk to you unconditionally about anything.

"It doesn't mean you are going to be enthusiastic about what they say to you, or that there won't be consequences, but they do need to know they can talk to you about any issue that's affecting them. Make sure the child knows that they can communicate about whatever it is they want to in an appropriate way, and that you're willing to listen and have those lines of communication open.

"Also be mindful of warning signs and triggers that things perhaps aren't right in their world. Changes in mood, sleep patterns, how often they are going out... you want to notice if there is anything specific changing in their behaviour that could indicate they need to talk about something."

Dana Tezarr
Let your teenager know they can talk to you about anything, any time.

In terms of discipline, Greenfield suggests setting clear boundaries early on so the teenager knows what is expected of them and neither of you are dealing with a 'grey area' of what's allowed and what isn't.

"You need to make sure from the very beginning you establish rules and boundaries and consequences, Greenfield said. "That's the very first thing you have to do."

Finally, remember that growing up is a challenging process and having someone on your back all the time probably isn't helping.

"Give them space to retreat," Greenfield advised. "As a parent you want to be firm, but you don't want to be overbearing."

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