When your makes the leap from pre-teen to full-fledged teenager, your days are somewhat numbered and you no longer have the top spot in their lives. In actuality, although you, for the most part, are still in the top ten, parents tend to fall behind, friend, teachers, social/cultural influences, and medical professionals.
Parenting a teenager, is probably one of the most challenging phases in the parent/child relationship; however, if you build positive habits prior to the "teenage years," then those dreaded seven years or so may not seem that bad.
1. Eat dinner together as often as you can. To be a successful parent of a teen means getting as much quality face-time with them as possible. Although schedules are busy, make it a habit before the big 13 to eat dinner with your child. This gives you time to reconnect, discuss the day's activities, talk about plans for the week, etc. If this is something that is already in place, you are more than likely to get the full scoop of what's going on in their lives right along with that extra serving fries.
2. No electronics time. Put the phone away and pay attention to what they are saying. Children are more apt to opening up when they feel that they have their parents' full-attention. Although you want to surf Instagram or respond to that email that just popped up, take time away from your cell and make sure that your kids do too. You both will find that conversation isn't such a lost art after-all.
3. Spend time with their friends. Even though you can't choose your children's friends, you certainly can get to know who they are! Have a weekly game night at your house where your kids friends are able to come over, hang out, and of course, eat all that they want. Make sure that your children's friends know that you have a somewhat of an "open-door" policy and that they are welcomed anytime in your home. Be the parent with the best playdates so that their friends are used to having you around and when they are teenagers, they hardly notice that you are still there but look for you when you are not.
4. Take interest in what they like. When it comes to the world of the preteen mind, there are so many things that get lost in the fog, such as Minecraft, Creepers, Five Nights at Freddy's, etc. the conversation can be a bit dense. Catch up on these things and more because once you take an interest in what matters to them, then they will continue to share the wealth for years to come. Also, being willing to step into their world, will make them more open to stepping into yours. This is a huge relationship builder that will last a lifetime.
5. Make physical contact. Everyone needs a hug for growth and teenagers are definitely no exception to the rule. Although they are not as affectionate and cuddly as little kids, keep up the physical contact. Maybe a ruffle of the hair or a pat on the back when they are preteens, leading up to the teenage years, may be more acceptable, let them know that you are there and when they want, a hug is still waiting. And of course, this non-verbal contact is just another way of you saying, "I love you."