Raising a teen or tween can make you feel as though their friends are the only people they ever pay attention to, but that simply isn’t the case. While friends have an enormous impact during these years, parents do too.
And like it or not, they’re watching, taking in how you approach the world through a more mature and critical lens.
Here are six big things that your teen/tween is learning from you:
How to deal with big feelings
By the tween/teen years, your children have earned an honorary Ph.D in the study of parental big feelings. And now, thanks to hormones, they are most likely having the biggest feelings of their own lives, too. This means your teen or tween is paying extra close attention to how you handle feelings of anger, frustration, sadness and happiness.
How to treat people
As they approach adulthood themselves, kids start looking at adult interactions with a different perspective. And, they pay more attention. Are you kind? Are you respectful? Do you talk about others behind their backs? Do you constantly make fun of people? These slices of life bceome implied lessons in how to treat others.
How to use social media
Are you careful about what gets posted and shared online? Do you broadcast every move you make online? Post suggestive selfies? Share photos and tweets about events that exclude others? Pass along inappropriate jokes or memes because you find them funny?
How do you hope your child navigates the maze of social media when they come of age?
How to manage alcohol
Do you have a casual glass of wine with meals or instead joke about “Mommy Juice” and vent that you “really need a drink” when feeling stressed? Do you share pictures of cocktails on social media? Drink and drive?
Your attitude towards alcohol helps children make sense of the role it should and does play in life. Since peers are unlikely to offer a healthy perspective about alcohol during these years, it’s up to the adults to provide a more balanced perspective.
How to drive
Are you at or near the speed limit? Do you change lanes carefully? Or tailgate? Yell and curse and cut off other drivers? Talk on the phone or text while driving? Your backseat drivers are most definitely watching.
How to unplug
When is your phone/computer/tablet out of your reach? During meals? When company is over? When driving? Never? If we want kids to have face-to-face interactions with us and with each other, they need to see us available and unplugged.
I know it might feel a bit like you’re housing spies, but parenting is anything but a private act. These home-stretch years before teens leave the nest are big learning years.
While peers appear to mean everything during this stage of development, your tween/teens are still getting plenty from you.
So, what are they learning?