2017 was crazy. Like other people who study teens, my intention was to understand the impact of growing up in such dynamic times. For those of us who miss the good old days, take heart. Some old school parenting tricks still work. But raising today’s teens also requires a different mindset than generations before. Here, I’m offering some of the most powerful parenting mindset shifts you can try on in the new year that will ease your parenting anxiety and build connection to your teen.
Our kids are two generations away from us. If we want to get them, we will have learn them about their worlds instead of yearning for the good old days.
Generation Z (born 1995-2015) is a full two generations away from their parents, who are known as Generation X. While the generation gap was always a thing, it has doubled. So if you feel like you can’t understand your kids, this is part of the reason why.
To our teens, nothing has changed. This is the world as they know it.
Keep in mind that this generation gap has widened during a time of dynamic, dizzying change that you are watching. You remember life when it was simpler. But for your kids, it’s the only reality that they know. All this is part of the disconnect.
Even if you’re faking it, transmit the message to them that hey, things are okay-ish.
Our culture has become increasingly amped up. We are anxious and fearful and it’s in our kids too. If you want to do something radical for your kids, instead of signing them up for another internship for their college resume, model and instill some measure of calm.
Speak about what’s good, ask their thoughts about their world and then listen.
Know this: Your kids are watching you more than they are listening to your lectures. They are also listening to the things you think they are tuning out, like your concerns about money, your anxieties about their future, and the stress you feel at work or with a partner. And so on.
The constant presence of technology impacts ALL of us, not just our kids.
Often when we talk about kids today, we paint a picture of teen lost in their phones. We forget that we ALL are in this unfolding experiment of having all the information at our disposal at all times. Full blown adults cross the street while texting! However…
We all need screen-free time, especially kids. But it’s also really hard to put our phones down. Part of your job as a 21st century parent is to enforce boundaries about screens.
We are the guardians of the good old days. Rather than tell them about the good old days of encyclopedias and card catalogs, we need to lead by example and model the behavior we want them to learn. This means disconnecting from our own phones down and enforcing consistent boundaries about screen-free time. You can do this in various ways: collecting all phones at night (preferably at a reasonable time that promotes more sleep, which we’ll get do in another post), locking phones in a K-Safe for a couple of hours on a Sunday, or with an apps like Ourpact.
Tolerate the discomfort of your teen’s push-back when you enforce boundaries. You are teaching them something valuable by modeling the ability to deal with conflict.
There will be push back on enforcing these boundaries, but do it anyway. Part of parenting is tolerating the discomfort of their push back. They are teens–they should push back and think you suck and are unfair. But if you stay true to these boundaries around screens, they will get the message that you are serious and eventually tire of the push back. In addition to saving them from their screens, you’re modeling how to be okay with conflict.
Raising kids today mean much more than obsessing about your teen’s obsession with screens. It requires shifting the parenting mindset to match the needs of a new generation. Accept that Generation Z is growing up in a dynamic, new world that is both amazing and scary. It’s the only world they know though. If we want them to be humans who can hold conversations and be empowered, we have to model these behaviors. We also have to have clear boundaries that we commit to, even if it means push back and temper tantrums. Even if you have to fake it, parent from a place of clarity and optimism some of the time. You and your kids will be better for it!
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