Teens also worry about entering junior high. This often requires changing to a new school and leaving the familiarity of their elementary school. It may also mean leaving friends. There are many adjustments to be made: bus routes to learn, timetables to figure out, new school rules, the expectations of several different teachers, increased workload, lockers and, of course, making new friends.
The physical, emotional and social changes that take place at this time are overwhelming. Teens worry about how they will cope with all of these changes. Will they be accepted and make new friends? Will their clothes and hair styles fit in? How will they handle the increased workload? Will they make the sports teams? How will their parents help them adjust to this new world? Will changes in their body make them less attractive?
To help their children through this transition period, parents need to do two important things:
The successful parents of a teenager understand the developmental tasks of adolescence and their guidance role during sometimes turbulent days. They know they need to review their parenting skills on a regular basis to determine what works and what doesn’t. Although a teen still needs the understanding, love and support of parents during this transition period, the dynamics are different. The key is for parents to learn ways to stay involved while still giving the child a chance to develop.
Teenagers are faced with an important and complicated task. Your teen’s job is to grow into a capable and competent person with a unique identity. Your job as parents is to provide the structure, boundaries and guidelines that enable teens to do their job. In this way, parents and teen share responsibility for accomplishing this task.
During this transition period, teens will behave in a variety of new ways. They seek independence which is often found by spending more time with friends than with family. This is healthy and normal.
They want more freedom and more responsibility. This is also normal and necessary to increase a sense of competency. If the goal is to help children become capable adults, then we want teens to try out new roles and challenges. The encouragement from parents provides the structure and boundaries as a framework.
When teens have opportunities to test themselves they learn what their abilities are. At the same time, the mistakes they make can be used as learning experiences.
Taking risks is a common behaviour among teenagers as a way to “test the limits.” They use risk to find out what the boundaries are regarding attitude and behaviour. They are aware of their own physical and emotional changes and they want to find out if the adults are changing too. What are the ground rules? Are they the same or are they different?
Taking risks is also a way to find answers to the question “Who am I”? Trying out new hairstyles, wearing clothes unacceptable to parents and breaking minor family rules are all part of the search for an identity.
First, parents need to understand what the teen is going through. Then, they need to recognize the importance of continuing to provide guidance and support. In the past, parents were told they shouldn’t expect to have any influence over teenagers because the peer group was all-important. Today, experts in the field agree this is not true. The well-adjusted, successful and happiest teens are those whose parents stayed involved with them through the teen years.
It may sound simplistic, but good communication is critical in families. Do try to talk openly and honestly with your teen. Do try to listen. Do try to initiate conversations. Do try to be open to criticism and avoid blaming. Be generous with praise and encouragement. Avoid teasing, ridicule and put-downs.Rules
Do establish rules and regulations for your family. Studies shows that teens feel more secure in families where the boundaries are clearly understood. Do review rules and responsibilities on a regular basis. Changes will be required to reflect growth and development. Do be open to negotiating these changes with your teen. Do not abandon: teens still need much guidance and direction.Role Models
Teens watch and hear everything their parents do and say. Be aware of this and try to set a good example in what you say and how you say it. Try to make healthy lifestyle choices. Avoid watching too much TV. Place an emphasis on physical fitness. Try to promote activities that will develop self esteem and self confidence. Continue to plan and expect participation in some family activities. Don’t drink and drive. Be community-minded. Be a good citizen. Lead by example.School
The junior high years are not the time to stop your involvement with your teen’s school. Try to make sure your teen arrives at school on time, well-fed, dressed appropriately and with sufficient sleep. This demonstrates respect for the teens themselves, their teachers and their school. They should arrive at school ready to learn.
Get to know the new school. Find out what the rules and expectations are. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If you can, take the time to volunteer at the school. This will demonstrate that you value school and academic performance. It will also provide you with an opportunity to get to know the school staff better. Make sure you attend teacher-parent interviews. Work in partnership with your teen’s teachers. Try to understand the workload and help your teen set realistic goals.
Advocate for your teen. Attend special events or school performances. Get involved with your school council. Participate in governance issues and decision-making. Demonstrate your ongoing confidence in your teen’s abilities.
It is very important that parents today carry on their role of parenting during the junior high teen years. Teens must not be left to their own devices. They need the continued support and guidance of their parents. To achieve true adulthood, teens and parents have responsibilities to share. Teens have a job to do and so do parents. Stay involved. Be aware. Your relationship with your teen will benefit from your involvement. Teens will grow up to be happier and healthier adults.