So 2016 is here – and this year my precious baby girl turns 13. It’s a scary time and parenting now has a whole new set of rules – just when I had mastered the toddler, child and tween stages….
Being a teenager is not easy; being their parent is even more difficult. They want to be free and able to thrive and spread their wings, but that must be tempered by their age and immaturity.
So what exactly can you do to help your teen become more independent without expecting them to do it all alone? Here are four ways of giving them a helping and guiding hand:
Paying for a smartphone is a big decision, but ‘all their friends have got one’ and the pressure will only mount for you to follow suit. There are several strong alternatives if you’re unwilling to go for the latest iPhone or Android, such as these Geek Squad choices.
The key is to impose some ground rules, but explain that there are limits to the content they may access. Agree boundaries on what they can and can’t download without your permission, and retain the right to scrutinise the bill if it suddenly becomes more expensive. Some providers will allow you to put a cap on spending – this is really handy until your teen understands exactly how much data is used to download a YouTube video…
One last point – make sure it’s insured, and has a case.
Ideally your teen will exercise and eat healthily, incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables into a diet that is adventurous and interesting. In reality, teenagers are fickle creatures, who change their minds on their eating habits like the direction of the wind.
The aim is to give them enough leeway to make their own meals, but be willing to keep an eye on their health and advise of the consequences if asked. Try to instil a sense of reason – don’t throw out all the junk food. There will be some stressful school days where a Vietnamese-style quorn stir-fry just doesn’t measure up to a McDonalds.
Pam Myers, writing for the Child Development Institute, says: “Most arguments between parents and children are about everyday things or differences in personal tastes and choices, not about serious differences in values. Don’t let food choices become a barrier between you and your child.”
Money – giving and taking
The bank of mum and dad will be officially open for business pre-teenage years, but it’s from about the age of 12-13 where youngsters want more, and aren’t afraid to ask for it in quite strident terms. They’ll want technology and music, new clothes and subscriptions to Netflix, and you’ll be expected to foot the bill.
Perhaps you start giving them a monthly allowance based on work around the home. It will teach them how to save money and budget, unless they’re one of the ‘Rich Kids of Instagram.’
And when they hit late teens, and possibly get a weekend job, it’s not too much to expect them to pay towards their upkeep through a small contribution towards food, etc.
From 16 they’ll get itchy feet – an itch that can only be scratched by placement on the pedal of a car or bike. Giving a teen vehicular independence is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow, and they’ll remember their first drive forever. You might choose a scooter from a dealer such as Metropolis Motorcycles, a large saloon capable of storing teenage paraphernalia, or perhaps a smart little hatchback.
They’ll want something fast and exciting, but as long as it’s not something that looks like it was built during the Cold War they won’t actually care that much.
Look for models that are reliable and cheap to run. Insurance could be the most expensive aspect of the purchase, so use price comparison sites. We don’t need to tell you that you’ll be anxious when they first pass their test, but the more practice they get the better their driving – and their life – will become.