Parenting Teens and Tweens: Being an Available Parent
In addition to the inherent challenges of raising kids during the adolescent years, “Parenting teens and tweens today is a brave new world indeed,” according to John Duffy, Ph.D, clinical psychologist and author of the forthcoming The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. Life has changed for kids today, and it’s only really happened “in the past decade or so,” Dr. Duffy said.
While technology offers a bounty of benefits, it also offers an online world bursting with information that many teens, and particularly tweens, just aren’t developmentally ready for, Duffy said. “When we were children, we had to go well out of our way to seek the information that might shock us, or get us in trouble.” Today, it’s all too easy.
Social networking sites have changed how kids communicate with and relate to each other, which presents other parenting challenges. Not only do sites like Facebook take an inordinate amount of their time, but online bullying has become a major problem.
Years ago, parenting with an iron fist might have worked, but as Duffy said, for today’s teens, it doesn’t. Many parents choose a strict and authoritarian style of parenting partly because of the belief that the teen years are trouble.
“Culturally, we have a general belief that teens are difficult, surly, egocentric, moody and just plain awful,” Duffy said. For example, he referred to a popular parenting book called Yes, Your Teen is Crazy. This misconception leads parents to raise their kids from a fearful place. And any approach based on fear is ineffective, according to Duffy.
While the teen years may be tough, he said, they’re also “full of growth, challenge and change.” Duffy believes in being an “available parent” and fostering “active communication.” Specifically, this means parenting “less from a position of fear, judgment and ego, and more from a place of calm, connectedness, and acceptance.”
Being an Available Parent
Duffy defines an available parent as someone who “listen[s] with curiosity to their children more than they talk at them, or lecture them,” has “faith in their children’s’ competence,” “truly want[s] to know their children and “are never cruel, judgmental or dismissive.”
Available parents also set structure and limits. “All children, teens and tweens included, benefit from a clear sense of structure: clarity from parents about bedtimes, homework, chores, curfews, and so on,” Duffy said. When establishing structure and boundaries, Duffy tells parents to trust their gut.