As a parent, there is nothing that you want more than for your child to be happy, healthy, and successful in life. When they are very young, they are completely dependent upon you for survival. You help bathe them, feed them, socialize them, and everything in between. But as they get older, they gain more independence and agency. This can be an exciting and nerve-wracking time for parents, as concern for their child’s well being increases.
During the teenage years, it is important to foster an openly communicative relationship with your child. They are experiencing a lot of changes, both physically and emotionally, all at once and they may need help navigating these shifts. As they approach adulthood, every parent should be doing whatever is necessary to help set them up for success. Here are some strategies that you can implement now to prepare them for navigating life’s challenges.
Be up front about money
Parents often fall into the temptation of avoiding a discussion about finances with their teens. While it makes sense to not burden them with more than they are already experiencing, it could hurt their relationship with money going forward. Having honest and educational conversations about topics like credit cards, taking out loans, paying bills, taxes, and anything else will help them start to think about their personal finances. It will also give them a sense of the financial consequences of certain decisions. If they want to attend college, do they understand the actual costs of student loans? You can encourage them to pursue their dreams while also managing expectations in terms of paying back those loans. Be up front about finances with your children when they are able to understand it and they will be better off when striking out on their own.
Teach them the rules of the road early
It is never too soon to test your teen’s awareness of safe driving practices, even a few years before they are legally able to drive. Teach them about being a defensive driver and how to be wary of other drivers. Tell them about common circumstances where accidents can occur. Familiarize them with the concept of keeping their head on a swivel and checking mirrors consistently. Being a safe driver becomes easier the longer you are driving, and educating them early on will give them a head start when the time comes.
Encourage them to advocate for themselves
One of the most intimidating aspects of growing up is the increasing level of responsibility. There is no longer someone who can always be in their corner to back them up. Instead, they have to learn to advocate for themselves. This can be an important skill in tons of circumstances, including in their jobs, relationships, and everyday life. Help them learn to be honest about what their needs and desires are at home so that they build up that skill set for other areas of their life.
Implement healthy dietary practices
Although teenagers should be given a certain amount of freedom when it comes to how they live their lives, it doesn’t hurt to encourage healthy eating habits early. You can be pretty confident that they will be eating junk food and high amounts of sugar. But if you can provide them with healthy options for meals and snacks, it will start them on a healthier track in life. Focus on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy grains. For snacks, try to avoid chips and microwave popcorn and instead opt for seeds, nuts, or healthy snack bars. A well-balanced diet will ensure that they are receiving the nutrients they need. Plus, you could even supplement their nutrient intake with multivitamins for teens, though they are no substitute for the right diet. The more often they are exposed to positive dietary practices, the more likely they are to adopt them on their own.
They are almost adults, so treat them accordingly
Though parents should always want to protect their children, treating them with kiddy gloves when they are teens is a recipe for rebellion. They are seeking an identity, belonging, and agency at that age, so it is crucial that you begin entrusting them with more responsibility. Discuss personal finances, encourage safe driving, teach them to be their own best advocates, and offer healthy dietary options. This will give them a better chance of successfully navigating more responsibilities as they grow older.
Remember that they will often take their cues from you. They watch how you respond to situations and will often imitate similar responses when they face the same circumstance. Teens are also able to pick up on whether or not people are being genuine, so be honest with them and open up conversations about these topics if you want them to be set up for success.