It’s one of the biggest challenges you’ll probably face as parents – the teen years. It can feel like overnight your angelic child turns into a hormone-fuelled, emotional young adult; you’re left wishing you could trade the moody minor for a tantrum-throwing tearful toddler.
After seeing the close bond between Paul Harragon and his son Daniel who joined him on the trek to Everest Base Camp with the Mark Hughes Foundation last year, we sat down with The Chief and his wife Pam to find out how they managed to bring up three incredible kids – and their secrets to getting through the teen years unscathed!
“The teenage years can be tough. It’s a confusing time for kids; their bodies change and they’re developing into adults, but don’t yet have the maturity and experience to deal with it. Although we’re far from perfect parents, we do our best,” Paul says.
“We’re very proud of our three amazing kids and we’ve learnt to be better parents from them.”
Here are the Harragon’s nine tips for raising teens.
1 Keep a connection
Staying connected to your teen is tricky. They’re finding their own independence, opinions and place in the world. Psychologist Dr Lisa Firestone explains to Psychology Today that this is completely normal,
“Adolescents and teens have a natural tendency to want to separate from their parents and seek psychological autonomy. No matter how great a parent you’ve been, at some point, your teenager will pull away from you. The good news is that this is totally natural.”
Paul and Pam believe that keeping open communication with your teen is important as you’re guiding them through the next few years.
“Teens may try to pull away and deal with their life on their own, which can be so isolating; you feel like you’re losing your baby. Letting them know you’re always there and connecting with them daily is so important. We find that meal times or bed time are both good opportunities to spend time together and chat.”
It’s not always about talking to your teens; sometimes the best way to show you care is by listening.
“Your kids need to know that you’re listening. Especially with boys, there may not be a lot to listen to, but be ready for when they do open up. Never give up trying to get them to talk to you. If you’re having trouble, try asking specific and related questions, but without being the Spanish Inquisition; it’s a fine line, we know!”
3. Be a parent
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be your teen’s friend; your main role is still to discipline, guide and support them as a parent.
“Acknowledge to yourself that sometimes you’ll have to be the bad guy and say ‘NO!’ Explain why, but be strong. One day they will understand, we promise,” Paul and Pam explain.
4. Be consistent
When raising a teen, consistency is essential, but it can be tough say Pam and Paul.
“It’s important to let your kids know where the line in the sand is. If they’re like ours, they’ll dance right up to the line – and sometimes even stick a toe or a whole foot over it just to see what happens. However, if you keep moving the line, it gets confusing for both you and the kids – plus, the older kids will always call you out when you relax the line a little bit for the younger siblings!”
5. Mistakes are OK
Your teen is going to make mistakes – they’re only human. This becomes an issue when they keep making the same mistakes regularly.
Pam and Paul recommend encouraging your teens to learn their lesson and move on.
“Remember, no-one is perfect.”
6. Stay positive
Both Paul and Pam are passionate about mediation and taking positive outlook on life.
“Negative feelings are OK; they teach us about certain situations, but try not to get bogged down them, allow them to rule your life or become a habit.”
The trick is to identify the root of the negative feeling and work to find ways to prevent it from occurring.
“We try and focus on the things we have in our life to be grateful for and think about what we want for the future. Goal-setting focus boards are great way to surround yourself with the beautiful things in life.”
7. Limit technology
Your teens may give you grief about it, but it’s important to place restrictions around technology use in the home. Research shows that teens are spending nearly nine hours a day looking at screens – a habit that can be detrimental to their development.
“In this day and age, technology and screen time can really rob us of our kids’ time and focus. This is a big concern of ours and one that we constantly try to balance. We don’t allow phones at the meal table or when we’re having a conversation. We think that there needs to be etiquette where devices are concerned because it’s hard to connect with someone who is constantly distracted by their phones,” Paul and Pam explain.
8. Make a community
Paul and Pam are strong believers in the adage that it takes a village to raise a child (or a teen).
“Surround yourself with supportive people. We’ve been lucky enough to have each other, our parents, siblings, extended family, friends and the parents of our kids’ friends to be there for us. Having a community of people you can got to for advice, or even just talk to has made a world of difference. It’s great to talk to people who’ve been there or who are going through the same thing at the same time,” they reveal.
“Listen to the advice of others and process it, but always trust your own intuition when it comes to your child.”
Paul and Pam finish our conversation with the tip that they’re most passionate about.
“Lastly and most importantly, love your teenagers unconditionally – no matter what. They’ll push your buttons, frustrate you and even disappoint you at times, but it’s so essential that they know your love for them is limitless.”
Paul and Pam have also put together some of their favourite resources on raising teens:
- Raising Girls- Gisela Preuschoff
- Raising Boys- Steve Biddulph
- Manhood- Steve Biddulph
- He’ll be O.K. – Celia Lashlie
- What’s happening to our girls – Maggie Hamilton
- What’s happening to our boys – Maggie Hamilton
- What men don’t talk about – Maggie Hamilton
- This clip by Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace
For more on raising teenagers, check out our article 5 ways mindfulness can help you deal with your teenagers