He's no longer the little boy who's generous with his hugs and kisses anymore. He's 15 going on 16 now and things have changed, and he has changed.
I had no idea how to navigate my child’s teenage years. Since it's only the 2 of us in our home, we’ve always been extremely close relying on each other for company and conversation - at home at least. Conversations has always been free and I’ve always enjoyed my son’s company. Not too sure if the feeling is mutual but I can only hope so.
As I remember it, the ages between 7 – 13 were incredible! He was still relying on me at the same time discovering and building his own independence over the years. We’d have holidays and outings together and they were always fantastic and quite possibly the best times of MY life! School work was a bit tough for him but I did try to help him as much as possible without killing him! I've always been a fanatic supporter of him, whether it was his interest in football, gaming (he used to compete in tournaments!) or projects in school. I'll always be there him...cheering for him and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Encroaching into his 14th year, he had become increasingly closer to his friends and there was an unseen distance that was growing between us. The thing is, I completely understood the changes he was going through and I was completely okay with it. He was thriving socially with his close-knit group of friends and I was and still am super proud of this bond that they've created and developed. I started giving him the space he needed. Letting him hang out with his friends on and on his 'sleep-overs' at friends places. I made an effort to get to know his friends and their parents. I started giving him the freedom of making his own choices as long as its within reasonable boundaries.
Now he's 15, he's way more independent and has strong opinions about anything and everything. It's sometimes annoying but it keeps me on my toes. Time is spent mostly in his room, either busy studying or gaming with his friends - coming out only for drinks, food and to check if I was still breathing (I think....) but I crash his room sometimes but I never overstay my welcome. I have had to develop a lot of patience which is not one of my better virtues but I guess that's what your kids do to you.
Sometimes, especially during the weekends, I do feel alone even if we're still under the same roof - we live in a 1,000sq.ft apartment and I STILL feel alone! I do make it a point to go out for dinner every once in a while and I really take in these moments. These are really special because sometimes out of no where we talk about the most interesting topics and on occasion he opens up about his feelings; truly an honour for me to sit across him and listen to him.
This boy makes my heart swell, with pride and so much love, at any age.
Being a teenager is hard and so is being a parent to a teenager. I do believe that a great relationship with your teenager is based on autonomy and he deserves to learn to be confident enough to make his own decisions, being prepared and taking responsibility of any consequences.
Below are some tips I live by which has done well for me so far.
We have to learn to trust, in ourselves, in the parenting we have given so far AND in our sons.
KEEP THE COMMUNICATION LINE OPEN
He may not be the talkative 4 year old who's only quiet when's asleep but when he does speak or have a conversation with me, I listen if that's what he wants me to do or if he wants my opinion I will give it. Sometimes I realise he tells me stuff not to get any feedback but just for me to listen. It can be difficult where as human beings we're so reactive and always volunteering advice when no advice is needed. Sometimes all we need is someone to listen and I totally get it and I respect it.
ALLOW TIME ALONE
It is important to allow teenage sons to privacy and space so that they can feel that they are growing up. With that said, it's also important that he spends time with you. In this case, I organise dinner dates, just him and me and once in a while we drive down to spend a day with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Going off tangent here - His cousins are still young and of course he gets bored easily but in family get to-gethers like that, I catch myself surprised (I know I shouldn't be) at how well he can hold conversations with the older members of the family.
SET AND KEEP BOUNDARIES
With my son, he quite understand the boundaries that I have without me having to spell it out to him and I appreciate him for just knowing. Nevertheless, teenagers need boundaries. Rather than imposing boundaries, a better way is to discuss it together with them with room for negotiation always open. Reasons and justifications are important and you'll gain their respect.
KEEP CALM...at least try your hardest
My son knows how to push my buttons, sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he doesn't (yes!!!!) In some situations, I find him telling me to either 'calm down' or 'chill' when I over-react. My over-reactions are sometimes unwarranted so I take a step back and do try to calm down but sometimes, my reaction is SOOO warranted. If this is the case, I do have to justify my reaction to make him understand.
WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER
As much as he is a teenager and finding himself, I'm a parent who has no experience of how to raise a teenager. I might've been one myself but it's just not the same. The 'when I was your age...' conversations don't apply here. We're different people going through different experiences. What is important though is to make it known that we're in this together and that we're a team. Being a parent doesn't make us perfect. I tell my son this and I say sorry when I've made a mistake and I don't even bother pretending that I know everything - he definitely knows more than me!
EMBRACE HIS CLOSE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
Ever since I found him talking non-stop about this group of friends he has become so close with, I made an effort to know them and to be friendly with their parents. After all we, the parents, had one thing in common - our boys were thick as thieves. Naturally, they became a part of my life. Recently, I was in the office quite late and I had called my son whom I knew was home but he wasn't picking up and I presumed he was taking a nap after a long day at school....but...one of his friends called me because he was concerned because my son had behave weirdly and now is not contactable. I LITERALLY dropped everything and raced home - my son was indeed going through some personal stuff and everybody was shut out. We sorted everything and all turned out okay. I will never have any words to describe how grateful and thankful I am for THAT call - neither will I ever forget what that friend did.
As much as you want them to respect you as a parent, have respect for your teenager.
Don't embarrass him
Know the difference between his behavior and character - poor behavior can be addressed and corrected.
His character is who he is and who he's finding out more of - never attack it
ALWAYS be honest with him
Try and put yourself in his shoes - emphathise and be compassionate
Finally, it is important to show him that you love him, they need to know that you do no matter how bad it gets. Things get better. During these teenage years, I find that it's not the amount of time spent is important, it's the quality. For the past 10 years, I've sent him to school every single day - the commute is 10 mins max but the conversations that we have sometimes are the best. I always thought the feeling was one way until one day, I floated the idea that maybe it might be more fun to bus to school and he said no because he enjoyed the talks..
He might not be that little boy anymore but he's still and will forever be my child and I look forward to the young man that he is coming into.