In Part I of this 3-part series, we discussed the needs of 11-14 year olds, and the strategies that can be used to work with them, whether they are the most “challenging” or the “easiest” children to work with. In the article Part I: Raising and/or working with youth ages 11-14 years, we also outlined some strategies parents/guardians can use to really connect with their kids, and the top things all young people need to truly thrive- the fundamentals are age-old and still work today.
In Part II of this series, we’re taking a much closer look at youth ages 14-18 years, which are arguably the most crucial years of a young person’s life because it is where there is an opportunity for a paradigm shift to take place; it is in these years where there is an opportunity for parents and the youth to create the blueprint for what the young person’s life will be modeled upon in the future.
So, what is really going on with our youth ages 14-18? Why all the attitudes, demeanor changes, interest in boys and/or girls? Secrecy? Less communication and openness? Slipping grades for some? Increase in grades for others? Changes in behavior? Mouthiness? etc. The quick and short answer is the biological one- hormonal changes. However, there is much more to our youth beyond the physical changes- as they develop physically, there are growing pains that are taking place mentally, emotionally, socially, etc. It comes with the territory of adolescence- it is the stage of development that precedes maturity.
To better connect and relate to our youth within the 14-18 year age range, there are some simple yet tried and true hacks that can ensure they are developing into the best versions of themselves possible. Here are a few:
“Again, tell them that you care about them and want what is best for them- you may think children and youth know this automatically and that it is a given, but they NEED to hear it and to see it in action.”
BE CARING AND LOVING– this may seem like a no-brainer and may even be assumed that the 14-18 year old knows this by default of them having their mom and/or dad physically present; but, you’d be surprised the number of youth that seek love, attention, and affection externally because they are not getting it at home. Tell them (your child) and (equally as important) show them that you genuinely care about them. This does not mean roughing them up, beating them, shaming them, embarrassing them, or verbally berating them. It also does not mean it is indicated through the provision of the basics of food, shelter, and clothing- that is what any parent/guardian is supposed to do and is the bare minimum for anyone you’ve taken up the responsibility and choose to care for. You’re supposed to provide, at minimum. Instead, it means leaning in to your youth a bit more, being affectionate (hug, kiss, dapping, ending the call or text with an “I love you,” etc.), paying attention to their demeanor and being in tune with how they show up…You should be able to sense as soon as they walk through the door, or when their tone shifts over the phone, when something is not right with them or when something great happened. That is how in tune with your child you should be as a parent, digging deeper with them to find out what is going on when needed. Again, tell them that you care about them and want what is best for them- you may think children and youth know this automatically and that it is a given, but they NEED to hear it and to see it in action. The seemingly prevalent need and desire to seek love and attention elsewhere is because many of our children and youth are not experiencing nor feeling it in the home. Being affectionate, caring, and in tune with your child and their needs, works. And, as the saying goes, you get more results/what you want using honey than when you use vinegar.
“Be supportive of every area of development of your child by being there physically, but more importantly by being present and in tune with the probing questions listed above, and more.“
BE SUPPORTIVE- What does your child want to be when they grow up? What will it take for them to be that? What are their goals? What short-term and long-term goals will help them get there? What will be done daily to help them reach those short-term goals, which will then result in the long-term goals? Does your child feel comfortable coming and talking to you when something is wrong or do they fear reprimand or judgement? If they don’t have a safe space in you to talk, who do they have to talk to that you and they trust and that can give them sound advice? What activities do they like to do? What are they good at physically? What are they good at subject matter-wise? What subjects do they struggle with? What are their anger triggers? What makes them happy? Who are their friends and their friends parents? What principles of character still need to be developed and nurtured in them to be upstanding young men and women? What areas of their morale compass still need to be developed or are they well developed in?
These are ALL questions that parents should be able to answer instantaneously because they know, and have a strong and positive relationship with their youth. These are also all questions that lend to you and I being supportive parents/guardians, who are ensuring that our youth are developing professionally, character-wise, academically, socially, emotionally, and mentally into who they aspire to be. Be supportive of every area of development of your child by being there physically, but more importantly by being present and in tune with the probing questions listed above, and more.
“Can your child call you a friend in need and a friend in deed, especially as it relates to their emotional and mental development?”
BE A FRIEND- now, I know that the way many of us were and are being raised in Bim, this is an anomaly when it comes to parenthood. Some presume that if you are your child’s friend you can’t be their parent, that you won’t be respected, lines will be blurred, etc. To be clear, the two are not mutually exclusive- you can be a friend and their parent both at the same time. Being their friend does not mean going to every fete and dog fight with them. This is not as it relates to the social or the physical where they share EVERYTHING with you. Instead, being their friend is more in alignment with their mental and emotional development- can they come to you when they have a problem, when they are feeling overwhelmed, pressured, sad, depressed, ecstatic, and need someone to talk to, to listen to them, to be a sounding board, to share exciting information with? Are you there go-to person for a voice of reason or wisdom?
If your child cannot or does not feel comfortable coming to you for advice or your relationship dynamic does not allow for this to happen, this is an area of growth that I encourage you to work on, together. You can be your child’s parent and their friend, especially at the ages of 14-18 because this is when their foundation, character, and principles need to be solidified, in anticipation of young adulthood. Can your child call you a friend in need and a friend in deed, especially as it relates to their emotional and mental development?
“As someone that comes from a praying household, I can unreservedly affirm that in my highs and especially my lows (and the lows WILL come), prayers can be felt and prayer changes things.“
PRAYER- for those that are Believers, this applies to you. Whether it be Jesus, Jah, Allah, whoever or whatever higher power you believe in, cover your child in prayer. Prayer over their past, present, and future, prayer over their highs and their lows, their mental, academic, and emotional capacities, their social circles, whoever they encounter and come into contact with daily, their environments, etc. As parents, you do not have control over what happens when they leave home but you can cover them in prayer, with the hope that a higher being is camped around them, protecting them from harm and danger, and equipping them with the fortitude to make sound and wise decisions, that are grounded in their upbringing. As someone that comes from a praying household, I can unreservedly affirm that in my highs and especially my lows (and the lows WILL come), prayers can be felt and prayer changes things.
What other recommendations do you have when raising and/or working with youth ages 14-18 years in these paradigm shifting and modeling of positive and productive adulthood years? Our youth are our future. We are their village. Engage.
Next up, Part III: ages 18-24 years, the trust factor. Stay locked. Stay loaded. Stay tuned.