When your child becomes a teenager, the dynamics of your relationship changes dramatically, so you need to evolve and become a different kind of role model. He will be mixing with a wide variety of individuals independently of you and it is important that you remain consistent in how you behave towards him. ‘Work hard … play hard’, is a very important philosophy you need to get through to your teenager, and to do this, you must lead by example.
As he will be trying new things during these years and following your example (where it suits him of course) try to avoid doing anything to excess yourself. While he needs to understand that he can enjoy himself, this must be linked to working hard, particularly at school. Therefore, he needs to see the example of ‘normal acceptable behaviour’ coming from his father.
It is vitally important that your child feels he can still communicate with you openly while he is a teenager. So this will be one of your biggest challenges during the next few years. So keeping all lines of communication open between you both is vital, and will influence strongly how your relationship with him develops. However difficult and awkward the subject is, you can never have a ‘bad conversation’ with your child, only a good one, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. With all the challenges facing him during this period of his life, this is where you will really benefit from the investment in time and effort you made with him during his earlier years.
It is during that period where you have laid the foundations, to allow you to stay connected during the extremely challenging times ahead of you. Your child is still very vulnerable when he is a teenager, but he neither believes nor realises this, and he will get sick of hearing you telling him this. He will be rebellious and very difficult to manage at times, so, your role really is to guide him through this stage of his life. Don’t worry, he will come out the other side, every child does, and hopefully with a sense of independence and respect for you, his mother, as well as other people. He will need this sense of value and perspective when he becomes an adult.
This is one of the most important things you can do as the father of a teenager. Lead by example: work hard, be nice to people, be consistent, respect others and their opinions, and be honest with yourself and your children (as well as others). Your child will be observing you very closely, although he may very often appear not to care at all what you are saying or doing.
As a Father with a teenager, you need to continue to pass on your life skills (only the good ones of course, even if your teenager quite likes some of your bad ones). These cover a wide variety of areas, such as social interaction with others, management of finances and the need to work hard to achieve things in life.
An area that is very often ignored by parents is the development of personal Financial Management skills. This is absolutely vital for your child to learn as this life skill could have very serious implications and even ruin your child’s life when he is older, if he doesn’t know how to manage this. The importance of grasping an understanding first and then managing this area of his life is a key life discipline.
You will need to make a real effort to teach your child this skill and it should start when he becomes a teenager, if not before. He will by now be receiving pocket money from you, to buy the personal things he wants, some of which he cannot afford. You need to discuss with him about the concept of working to earn money, then budgeting and managing how to balance his immediate need with what he can afford. He needs to understand that he must save a portion of his weekly money until he has sufficient funds to buy that special purchase he wants. This is a very important message to get over to him, as it is very dangerous and potentially disastrous if he doesn’t understand this concept when he becomes an adult.
Your child will already have an idea of what he is good at and what he isn’t, and your job is to guide and encourage him. Always respond positively and always encourage him. This will give him belief in what he can achieve. You also need to be a realist in terms of his ambitions, while at the same time never stifling his dreams. This is a very difficult balancing act to do, particularly as nearly all teenagers are full of self-doubt, not to mention the mood swings. If you get this balancing act right however, you will launch your child into life with a very positive attitude, but if you get it wrong, it will make this transition from childhood to adulthood much more challenging for both of you.