Making parenting less daunting: The Parenting Teenagers Course

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Group photo of participants and facilitators at St Joseph's Private School. Photo credit: Fr Francis Lim SJ

KUCHING The Alpha Malaysia, Sarawak Branch under Dr Wong Howe Tung, his wife, Mdm Gan Chuei Lian and their group of capable facilitators, conducted a 5-sessions course on parenting teenagers over five consecutive Saturdays, starting 5 October and ending 9 November.

The course was partly sponsored by Jabatan Wanita Dan Keluarga Sarawak, to cater for parents in St Joseph’s Family of Schools. Among the topics covered were ‘Keeping the end in mind’, ‘Meeting our teenager’s needs’, ‘Setting boundaries’, ‘Developing emotional health’, and ‘Helping teenagers make good choices’.

Parenting is indeed a daunting task since our teenagers are typical Gen Z who are exposed to the influence of social media. The peer pressure to keep up with what’s trending, the ever changing digital landscape and the ensuing dangers make it more crucial than ever for parents to be prepared and guided in adapting and adopting new parenting skills.

In order to be effective parents of the present day teenagers, we need to adapt to changes. The growing-up stage is understandably demanding and emotional. As parents, we face the usual challenges of dealing with messy bedrooms, rebellious behaviours and outrageous attires from our children.

Parents need to hone time management skills and to make sound decisions. We are entrusted and expected to do our part to help the teens to journey towards maturity and independence; making necessary adjustments in our approaches and communication, bearing in mind that no two children are alike. As adolescents, they will face disappointments, failures, rejections and tremendous amounts of peer pressure.

This is also the stage where they may rebel, become uncommunicative and reserved. Thus, we need to build strong and healthy relationships with them. Setting good examples for our teenagers to emulate and develop will definitely mould them into good characters.

Adolescence is essentially a discovery journey, a stage where teens are developing physically, emotionally and psychologically. At times they may not be able to comprehend the changes they are going through and the new found opportunities to experiment. But surely they need us, parents to be there for them and to make sure that ‘their emotional tank is filled’.

Understanding the teenagers’ love languages is helpful in meeting their needs. The five love languages are time, affirming words, touch, kind actions and thoughtful gifts. As the teenagers go through transformation, they are susceptible to emotional volatility. Teens need parents to spend time with them, giving them undivided attention at the invaluable moments of their day; making them feel important.

The words we speak to our teenagers will impact and stay with them for the rest of their lives. Uttering affirmative and encouraging words will definitely help in building up their confidence and instilling positive attitudes.

Teenagers can be embarrassed by a physical show of affection, yet they yearn for it. Regular kind acts of love and going the extra mile to show our care and concern helps. As parents, we need to show and express our gratitude not just during meaningful events but also in the simplest things our teenagers have done.

Being young doesn’t give teenagers the excuse to act frivolous, reckless and disrespectful. It is true teenagers need unconditional love and acceptance but we still need to set appropriate limits for their behaviour. Finding a balance between effective parenting style and instilling responsibility in teenagers is the essence of effective nurturing.

Authoritative parenting is deemed to be the ideal parenting style. It is a combination of warmth and firmness. Parents are to set boundaries in the context of love, exercise authority when it needs to be imposed and giving teenagers enough freedom to explore, make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.

Parents need to be parents and counsellors, and not friends. Make clear to our teens the non-negotiables; be open to critical and analytical discussions and build trust along the way. Eventually, parents will have to be consultants to their teens and not controllers.

It is not easy to set boundaries but it is paramount to keep our overall aim in mind that we are helping them to take responsibility so that they can learn to set their own boundaries for themselves.

Teenagers crave for the assurance that their parents understand, appreciate and love them. It is not always easy to cope with overwhelming demands of the teenagers, likewise for parents too. Frequently, this overflow of emotions is translated into anger and aggression.

Parents have to manage their anger effectively, refrain from spewing hurtful words, not over-react and walk away from their teenagers and leave issues unsettled. As we want the best for our children, we must first be the role model to them. Express our anger constructively, resolve conflicts by discussing the issues and brainstorming for solutions.

We need to help our teenagers to handle stress well by first, managing our own. With the teens’ volatile temperaments, raging hormones and the clashes of wills, it is indeed a formidable task. It is also important to apologise for our mistakes and forgive our teenagers for theirs. Ultimately, teenagers just want to be loved and accepted for who they are.

The world we live in is changing and it is important to prepare our children for the path that is coming their way. The book “In the Coddling of the American Mind” by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff opens with this quote: “Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child.” That is so true.

We need to make time, be the devil’s advocate and empower them with good examples and strong values. Indeed, we cannot make all the decisions for our teenagers, but it is pivotal to let them take ownership of their decisions and actions. We are to equip and help our teenagers make healthy and right decisions.

This course has not only served as a reminder of being a worthy and loving parent but also an eye-opener in new parenting skills.

What some participants said about the course:

When The Parenting Teenagers Course to be held at St Joseph’s Private School, Kuching was announced, I was immediately drawn to it, knowing that I have been sent to serve in education of youth in high school. In my past Jesuit ministries, I have had sporadic contact with youths through pastoral services and faith formation. My audience was mainly the adults. These days I need to learn “parenting teenagers” in the high school context.

Among many learnings from contents (DVD) presentation, group sharing and individual testimonies, I found the 5 languages of love especially beneficial as a positive way to understand and relate to different persons accordingly and personally. It is important to realise that teenagers with their developing emotional intelligence are works in progress.

All in all, the parenting teenagers course has provided me insights into the complexity and potentiality of teenagers, so much so that more patience, respect and healthy sense of humour are required in youth ministry in general and education of high schoolers in particular, that is, flowing with their natural growth rhythm and changing surroundings. – Joseph Ng

I can say my experience with the parenting course has been beneficial. Throughout the sessions, I have learnt to understand better the theories and concepts that I have been practising on my children. I have come to realise and understand my mistakes, and now have known something new which I should practise more in my parenting journey. – Jessie Koh

Francisca Edup

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