By Ayesha K
The end of your offspring’s childhood marks the beginning of a period of changes most commonly known as the teenage year. At this time there are usually two categories of parents; the first that enjoy this time because the effort they put into the many years of nurturing their child has produced a well-rounded young adult and so they are enjoying the fruits of their labour. The second group are not so content and experience a lot of anxiety during this period.
If you find yourself in the first group then say ‘Alhamdulilah!’ and enjoy this time with your child and build a beautiful friendship with them. If you are in the second group then do not despair! Although this is a very difficult situation, there are some strategies you can adopt when dealing with your teen that will ease the situation insha Allah. Whether you are in the first or second group, or you are reading this because you are being proactive and still have young or yet to be born children then hopefully you will find the strategies we have highlighted useful in either building or maintaining a good relationship with your teen.
The teenage years are the third and final period that was mentioned by Ali radiAllah anhu in his famous advice given on parenting. Ali (ra) said “Play with you children for seven (years), discipline him for seven (years), and be his companion for seven (years), then leave him after that”
There are three elements to this; understanding your teen, communicating effectively with them and knowing how to approach specific behavioural issues.
The anxiety that most parents experience is because they just do not understand and remember what the teenage years entail. So let’s take the first step and try and understand our teens better.
There is no specific time when adolescence begins, every child is different. Adolescence is characterised by the physiological changes of puberty, behavioural changes, attempts at individualisation, trying to gain acceptance from peers and finally an increased desire for independence. It is this desire for independence that can result in disagreement and isolation from parents.
The first step to understanding your teen is to educate yourself. This can be achieved by reading related literature and also reflecting over your teenage years. Remember that you were once a teenager and reflect on the difficulties that you experienced during this time. This will help you emphasise with your child and improve the interaction between yourself and your teen.
Your teen is going through many changes during this time. Prepare them for it by speaking to them about what they should expect. They need the comfort of knowing that they are not alone and you understand what they are going through.
Wisdom is a vital tool during this time, pick your battles wisely. Do not condemn everything that your teen is doing. She wants to dye her hair the colours of the rainbow? Let her, it is better that she learns through small mistakes rather than committing acts that are majorly sinful.
Your child is an adult now; you need to make decisions concerning them together. So any expectations you have make them together this will lessen their anxiety.
Now your child is a teenager the best way of telling them what is permissible and what isn’t is to tell them the consequences of an action, the benefits of abstaining, an alternative to the action and then leave it to them. For example in regards to sexual relations and zina, tell them if for every minute engaged in illegal sexual activity they should liken it to spending a minute spent inside a hot tandoori oven. Then tell that sexual relations between spouses is one of the pleasures created by Allah in this world and that if you protect yourself Allah will grant you a spouse that has done likewise. Another good analogy that represents the consequences of ones deeds is likening the world to a supermarket in which whatever you put in your shopping basket you have to pay for at checkout.
Many teenagers desire privacy. Give them this privacy but tell them this privilege is built on trust. If they break this trust it will come with consequences.
Even though they are all grown up now, you should still monitor your teen. You should monitor what they are watching, reading and accessing in your home. Some tips are to put the TV, tablet, PC in a public space that is continually being used such as the living room and not in a secluded area such as the bedroom.
Finally it is common for teens to go through some difficulties when dealing with the changes associated with adolescence. However some experience serious problem that require professional help. As a parent you need to be aware of the warning signs, some of them are:
- extreme weight loss or gain
- sleep problems
- rapid, drastic changes in personality
- sudden friend change
- continuous bunking from school
- failing grades
- joking/ talking about suicide
- drug/ alcohol abuse
- illegal activity
Any of these changes or any inappropriate changes that last more than 6 weeks can indicate a major problem and medical help needs to be sought.
Your child becoming a teenage requires a complete change in your parenting style, they are no longer the child that needs your command, Rather what they require is your friendship and support. It is through understanding them that you will take the first step in befriending them and once you gain this friendship you will have a greater chance in influencing and guiding them in the right direction.
Alkauthar Institute Weekend Course – Parenting Matters, The art of raising Righteous Children’. Taught by Sheikh Alaa Elsayed.