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Parenting Teens in Midlife

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Parenting Teens Menopause Peri-menopause

Parenting teenagers can be both a joyful and a trying experience. The teenage years are often turbulent, with many kids feeling quite emotional as a result of their constantly fluctuating hormones. Much the same thing can be said about midlife, so when middle aged parents and teenage children experience the wild ride of raging hormones at the same time, there are bound to be some moments of conflict.

Times of Change

Teenagers are no longer children, yet not quite adults, which can make it sometimes difficult for parents to know exactly how to guide and discipline them. Many of today’s parents try to take on friendship roles with their kids, but in doing so, they run the risk that their teens may not view them as authority figures and may look upon house rules as mere suggestions, rather than steadfast expectations of behaviour. While it can be tempting to allow teens to bend the rules, kids of that age do need consistent guidance from their parents, even if that sometimes makes the parents unpopular with their offspring.

Times have changed, but the basics of child rearing remain the same. Parents have a responsibility to lead their children toward being responsible, independent people, and that requires setting limits on their behaviour and slowly allowing them greater freedoms as they show that they are capable of handling themselves in positive ways.

Making Time for Teens

Oftentimes, kids reach their teenage years just as their parents are entering the period in their lives when their careers are most demanding. Most modern parents hold jobs outside of their homes, but teenagers require a certain level of consistent parental involvement. No one would consider leaving very young children on their own for fear that they may make foolish or unsafe decisions, yet many parents feel comfortable in allowing their teens a great deal of unsupervised time.

Today’s teenagers are faced with a number of difficult decisions though, many of which can have long lasting consequences, should they fail to choose wisely. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products are readily available to most kids, and the decision about becoming sexually active is usually dealt during the teenage years. Parental guidance can have a great impact on teenage behaviour, so no matter how many obligations midlife parents have to their careers or social lives, they must not lose sight of the fact that teenagers are not yet adults, although they are faced with many adult decisions.

Raging Hormones All Around

Midlife comes with challenges of its own, not the least of which can be the hormonal fluctuations common to the menopause. Menopausal and peri-menopausal women often experience a wide variety of physical and emotional symptoms, some of which can impact their sense of well being. Hot flushes can disrupt sleep, leaving women feeling tired, irritable, and impatient. Meanwhile, their teenage children are dealing with hormonal issues of their own. Butting heads and flaring tempers are not uncommon during this phase, but it is the parents’ responsibility to maintain a respectful level of behaviour in their families.

Leading by example is the best way, with parents showing their teens that personal difficulties can and should be dealt with rationally, and that feeling off is no excuse for irrational or rude behaviour. On the occasions that parents lose their tempers, they can gain the respect of their teenage kids by admitting when they’ve overreacted and offering sincere apologies. Families are learning grounds for living in the outside world, so parents who show their teens how to handle difficulties give the kids valuable gifts that they will use throughout their lives.

Almost Grown

Teenagers are just one step away from adult independence, so parents have to encourage their kids’ efforts to make decisions for themselves. By allowing increased independence (closely watched, of course), parents can help their teenagers to be ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. Middle aged parents can likely recall with clarity how they felt as teens, so they understand what it is to feel grown up when the rest of the world doesn’t yet see you that way.

By balancing their teens’ freedoms with sound guidance, midlife parents can help their kids to feel both loved and respected during their last years at home. Both generations can take heart in knowing that in just a few short years, everyone involved will have survived the hormonal roller coaster ride and life will return to normal.

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