Have you watched “Mean Girls” with your teen daughter? There is a memorable line in the movie when Mrs. George states, “I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a COOL mom.” Of course, Mrs. George is a caricature of a mom trying too hard to be “one of the girls.” She makes mocktails for “happy hour,” wears skimpy clothing, and allows her daughter to occupy the master bedroom suite.
Are “cool parents” more in tune with their teens? What does it really mean to be a cool parent?
Cool parents are truly connected
A cool parent is someone who can relate to teens, but still establishes a position of respect and authority. Cool parents know that the key to staying on the same page as their teenagers is to stay involved and interested in their dreams and goals.
Dr. Ilene Val-Essen, author of “Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self: Creating a Family Based on Mutual Respect” (Quality Parenting, 2010) and creator of the “Quality Parenting Program” (www.qualityparenting.com), believes that teens want to stay connected with their parents.
“Respect is the link,” she explains. “Respect yourself, your children, and those with whom you interact.”
Dr. Christina G. Hibbert, a clinical psychologist, mother of six, and author of “This is How We Grow” (Oracle Folio Books, 2013), points out, “One of the worst things parents can do is try to be their teen’s friend. They have plenty of ‘cool’ friends. Instead of trying to be like your teen, focus on being open to your teen. Do activities with them that they enjoy. Make time to listen whenever they need you.”
Dr. Grace Malonai, a psychotherapist specializing in parenting and family relationships, explains, “It is common for people to think that in order to connect with their teens, they need to get down on a teen’s level by wearing similar clothing or talking the lingo. However, parents are older and different than their teens, and trying to look and sound like them may seem fake. Parents can connect with teens by being authentic and empathetic.”
Val-Essen describes, “Cool parents are parents teens can be proud of. Parents engaged in meaningful activities — those that keep them alive and passionate about life — are cool parents teens admire.”
Parents should be aware of the latest teen trends. Educate yourself about new social networking sites, music, movies, as well as anything illicit or unhealthy teens might be exposed to. You can’t advise your teen if you don’t know what is going on.
Staying connected with your teen also means that you are familiar with his current circle of friends and his social activities. Allow your teen to have friends over regularly, so you can get to know them on a more personal basis. Take your teen on regular outings doing something he loves.
What’s the buzz?
Teens don’t always talk to their parents about what is going on, but parents must keep trying to break that barrier.
Malonai, recommends, “Listen to your teen with all that you have, and make sure you are available when the time is right.” She also advises parents to show interest in their teen’s feelings without using accusatory language. For instance, a parent might say, “The words in that song tell a sad story, yet you are smiling. This makes me curious.”
Being a cool parent shouldn’t means that you haven’t forgotten what it is like to be carefree, and you can still find your sense of humor. Understand your teen is changing and desires more independence, but still insist that he follows your rules and expectations.
Tips and tales
“I try to remind my son that I was his age once and have ‘been there’ — even though it was during the age of the dinosaurs!”
Lori Ann Jones, Salt Point, NY
“To stay connected with my teen daughter, I get up to take her to the bus. It’s when we talk without interruptions from siblings, pets or the phone.”
Lynda Radano, Berlin, NJ
Share your ideas
Upcoming topic: Tips to encourage your teen to have healthy sleep habits.
Please send your full name, address, and brief comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.myrnahaskell.com. Myrna Beth Haskell is a feature writer, columnist and author of “Lions And Tigers And Teens: Expert Advice and Support for the Conscientious Parent Just Like You” (Unlimited Publishing LLC, 2012).