Just about every parent I’ve ever met has been anxious about their child reaching their teenage years. I get it. We remember the frustration and tension when we were growing up. We now think bad karma will bring its payback to us.
But it doesn’t have to be this way in your home—for you or your kids. Yes it’s an unavoidable season of transition. It can get dicey at times. It will require some planning, patience, and commitment to each other. Yet rather than feeling doomed for the worst, you can genuinely expect to make it a great season that has long-lasting benefits.
When a child begins to experience the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes of adolescence, it can be scary. What a child needs to know is that he isn’t the first to experience this and that you can actually be his greatest ally during that time.
Your role as a parent now needs to shift more from controlling to coaching. No one has more potential to be the best life coach for your child than you. That will require trust and open, ongoing communication.
And those things can’t just start when a child turns 13 years old. You’ll need a lot of relational equity built up before then.
2 Ways To Build Relational Equity Before You Need it
The time to prepare for the teenage years is, at best, years prior. Two things that made a big difference in our relationships with our kids were these:
- Special Time. This is one of the five weekly habits we encourage families to adopt. It’s simply spending individual time as a parent with one child on a rotating basis each week. Just hanging out together, doing something fun, and talking. Strong, deeper relationships need time and conversation. The cumulative result of many such hours together will provide the foundation of trust for when you start start shifting more to coaching than controlling.
Pre-teen trip. This was an important mile-marker event in our family. Around the child’s 10th birthday, we’d do an overnight—if a son, would be with me; if a daughter, with Gail. We would have an extended time together to do fun things but the focus was on discussions about the upcoming years. We’d talk about the transformations that would come with growing up—the excitement of that and the potential challenges.
The biggest take away would be that as parents, we would now begin shifting from telling them what to do to more coaching them in preparation for adulthood. As their life coach, they’d need to trust us. We’ve been through this and we care enough to help them.
That served as the launch pad for their upcoming transition through the teenage years into adulthood. As they would experience changes—and especially negative emotions—we’d earn credibility by having predicted it. And we’d be quick to remind them that we weren’t their enemy. We were their coach.
Transitions are usually both exciting and unnerving at the same time. It’s good to know you’re not the first or alone. Building the relational equity long before the transition into your child’s teenage years gives you the advantage to help you and your child prepare for the smoothest transition. The reward is continued trust and relationship as they reach adulthood.
Question: If you have or have had a child reach their teenage years, what did you do to make that transition smoother? Share your answer in the comments below.