I have two teen sons (ages 14 and 18), and I often find it difficult to know how to connect to them or know what they are thinking. Since you work with teens so much, could you shed some light on simple things mothers should know about raising boys?
Several years ago I had a radio talk show and I enlisted several teen guys to give me some specific tips for parents! It’s always a privilege to be able to get into the “headspace” of teens in order to really understand what they need and want. So I asked a teen named Eric Acosta and his friends to create a list called things they want their mothers to know. Enjoy reading and ask your son how many of these apply to him.
The Top 20 things teen guys want their mothers to know
• Stop telling us to pull up our pants.
• Don’t take it personally that we don’t want to go shopping with you anymore.
• What may be “just a game” to you — e.g., sports, video games — could be extremely important to us.
• You’ll never think that a girl is good enough for us but we need to find out for ourselves.
• Leave “The Talk” to Dad.
• Try to bite your tongue when our voices crack.
• What may sound like noise to you is great music to us.
• Reminding is different than nagging.
• If you think something’s wrong, you’re probably right, but please don’t press the issue. We’ll come to you when we’re ready.
• We eat a lot.
• Just because video games weren’t around when you were a kid doesn’t make them any less fun.
• My room isn’t messy, it’s “lived-in.”
• Our first shave should not be considered a Kodak moment.
• If you give us too much freedom we might abuse it. If you give us too little, we’ll definitely abuse it.
• My cellphone is not a 24-hour personal Walkie-Talkie.
• It’s not just good decisions we learn from.
• Assuring us that our current problem is “not a big deal” won’t change our minds.
• It’s one thing to introduce yourself to our friends but another to interrogate them.
• Schoolwork is obviously important. That doesn’t mean that other things aren’t.
• Even if we don’t say it enough, we do appreciate you.
• • •
My firstborn just left for college this fall and I’m really scared that I’m going to lose this great relationship I have with her. What can I do to ensure our connection?
Your question is one that many parents can relate to! I did a recent survey with young people going off to college and asked them what their parents could do to be helpful during this transition. Most importantly, they said, “Tell them not to worry so much.” I realize this is easier said than done! However, they also suggested the following five tips:
Send personalized care packages: Receiving a customized package away from home is always a treat! Make sure it’s practical and fun. Think about what magazines, music, or hair products they like.
Take them out for dinner: If you are within driving distance, take them out for a meal occasionally. Everyone likes a break from residence food. However, I must caution you — talk with them in advance about how often they would like this to happen. Some young people would prefer one time per week, but I find that most really need their space (especially at the beginning) and may only want to do the dinner date monthly or bi-monthly. Talk about expectations!
Text, Skype, and send phone cards: With today’s technology it makes it much easier to stay connected. Some parents and teens like to text mostly (it’s quick and fast), others prefer phone or Skyping (you can actually hear and see how they are doing). Be sure to mail phone cards to make connecting that much easier and cheaper!
Ask open questions: When you finally talk to them, ask specific questions: What is the best part of university? What is the worst part? Avoid asking, “How is university?” You’ll get “good” or some other one-word answer. Be focused on really getting an idea of how their new life is away from home.
Respect their space and don’t take it personally: Remember that they have entered a new chapter of their life. Make it clear you are there for them, but also respect their space. Try not to take this personally if they don’t want to talk with you daily — this has nothing to do with how much they love you — they are growing up, and living independently is a great way to boost their confidence!
Do you have a question for Dr. Karyn? E-mail her at email@example.com!