As parents, we often fail to understand just how fast time flies.
It never hits us that our babies we once nursed in our arms are growing fast into high school students and are slowly beginning to hate the “kiddish” things of life.
OLDER KIDS HATE IT WHEN MOTHER’S TREATS THEM LIKE BABIES: A LESSON TO PARENTS
Some parents fail to understand that some of them are no longer comfortable with us handling them as we used to, back when they were younger. As a single parent with a kid who has fast grown into a teenager in just over a month’s time, I have learnt a lot about the changes in character and needs of children as they grow up through different stages of life.
Here are the eight main lessons I have learnt from my son
1. They need their own space
Your older child will really love you for once in a while giving them their own space. They always desire to have their own time and space to think independently without you coming in to interfere. They will appreciate you for allowing them space to chat and interact with their friends, read books, play games or just think.
With our life of permanent travel, this became very apparent, and I realised when we stayed in a suite at Banyan Tree Bangkok just how much Explorason needed his own room. Once inside the suite, he set up his own room, unpacked his own things into his own dressing room, and promptly locked the door on me! We hadn’t had an argument, he just was revelling in his own space.
And for this reason, along with a few others, I realised it was the time we needed a home base where he could have his own bedroom, and this is exactly why we have returned to Australia to achieve this.
Even with the extreme love I have for my near teenage boy, I have learnt to understand that there is the time he just wants to remain at home as I leave the house for my personal errands. I am more sensitive to his needs as he is virtually a teenager. So I no longer have to drag him along with me to supermarkets or meetings against his wish for some “alone time”.
I love how responsible he is with this space I allow him to have. He uses it to complete his school assignments, interact with friends in the neighbourhood, and play online games. At the end of the day, he feels more of a man than a boy.
2. Public image is very important to kids
On Christmas Eve, Explorason and I went to church. During the service, they paused for a ‘meet and greet’ time, and one lady comes up to us and announces that she follows our world travels and Explorason is astounded. This has happened to us several times. I remember distinctly a time in Europe when a lady came up screaming “Exploramum, Explorason. I follow your travels. I can’t believe I’ve met you in real life. Can we get a photo?”. We felt like movie stars, not just travel influencers.
So, as two people who now have very public lives, I have had to be more astute on whatever I say about my son since I never want to embarrass him, especially among his peers. We now have to understand just how small the world has become with international travel and social media. The internet has made all of us susceptible to criticism and public shame. People can at any time photograph or video us, and it might not be in our most flattering moment.
I remember one woman twisting a situation terribly, and accusing me of shoplifting in Bangkok when I tried to return a faulty cable I had purchased from her! Oh, my goodness was it a crowd gatherer and I was held captive. She grabbed and hid my receipt and started to yell, and both Explorason and I were mortally embarrassed. She then grabbed my wrist because she did not want me reporting her to the shopping centre authorities. But to anyone looking on, she made me look like a thief, not a ripped-off customer. Why she just never replaced or refunded us at the start I have no idea to this day.
Finally and thankfully, a Thai speaking man intervened and she let go of my wrist and we were able to get our money back, but Explorason and I walked away shell-shocked. As we stopped in a restaurant to calm down and recover, Explorason stated “what if someone captured that and put it on YouTube Mum? You would be destroyed”.
His comment is exactly where the world is now. Yes! Just one negative exposure and people can be destroyed or hurt deeply.
For example, a post about your teenage son or daughter or son can go viral and find itself in the noticeboard in his/her school. Bullies can use such remarks and posts to bring him/her down if you fail to moderate their use of the internet. Not only that but now bullying, lies, and rumours take on a whole new level and we need to protect our children from the worst possible outcomes, with some teenagers even committing suicide.
It is for this reason that I have become more mindful of how I share our stories online. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean parents should spread lies, or glamourize their kids to only make him or her look good in public.
3. Photographs and reviews
I actually discovered that my son is no longer comfortable posing for ‘kiddie’ photos. He doesn’t want to be seen at an event making a toy or being in a Kid’s Club or with a babysitter. He in some way has started branding himself as more of a ‘man’ than a ‘kid’. Again, forcing him to pose for ‘kiddie’ photos would only embarrass him among family and friends and I’d hate to do that.
So I respect his concerns about certain ‘kiddie’ poses and his public image and instead always work out poses that best define him for who and how old he is. He cares about how he dresses, his clothes, his hair, his skin and of course if there is food on the corners of his mouth or on his face, or an ice cream dripped down his shirt. Even as adults, we might do this, but we wouldn’t want our friends to share it on their social media, so it is time to care about our kid’s feelings too.
Again, if Auntie Jane has knitted them an ugly sweater, don’t go posting the photo on Facebook or Instagram. Share them with Aunt Jane privately in a message or a post she or other relatives can only see and spare a thought for your child’s feelings.
4. Teenagers develop inflated desires
As kids grow up, their desires seem to grow to a more unrealistic level. They no longer desire to have toy cars. Instead, they want real cars. If you have a daughter, she probably no longer fancies Barbie dolls but instead desires to have makeup, fake nails, jewellery, and the latest shoes, dresses and handbags.
In other words, their desires seem to shift from “affordable” to “expensive”.
There are moments I have had to say “no” when my son has insisted on having expensive gadgets that were way beyond my budget, or just not applicable as an ‘anytime purchase’ instead of a ‘special occasion purchase’ like a birthday, graduation, or Christmas.
However, whenever possible, I will always make sure I get him items that complement his age. I will always ensure that he dresses well by getting him nice clothes and shoes. I also ensure that he has access to latest gaming devices, but I will also encourage that apart from gifts, he needs to save for these items himself.
This is so important since I always want him to feel like he is part of a conversation and in keeping with his peers when he relates to his friends. On returning to Australia as our home base, this has become far more necessary than when we were nomadic travellers.
Regardless of what you as a parent do, try hard not to make your teenage son or daughter feel left out when interacting with friends. However, learn when to say no when you can’t afford it, or when they have adequate items. Do not get ‘sucked in’ to buy their love with every conceivable item that is advertised.
5. They desire to be more involve in decision-making processes
If there is anything you feel you need to do with your child, please try hard to include his or her views in your decision-making process. Don’t just make all the decisions by yourself as a parent. He is no longer ‘that kid’ who never knew anything about planning but a child who wants to see and explore parts of the world that interest him. Yes, it is true that your teenage kid or even youth has not yet reached that level of being fully trusted to make sober decisions, however, allowing them to be part of some decision-making processes make them feel like they are part of them. As a result, they will joyfully be willing to participate in whatever the two of you or your family have planned.
Remember, even though they need their space, they still have a desire to do some things with you as long as you don’t make them feel like babies, toddlers or ‘little kids’.
Since we love ‘random acts of kindness’, I always make sure that my son gets involved in most of the decisions regarding our visits to places like orphanages. He helps me determine the type of food to purchase and the duration of time within which we should stay at the orphanages. I have discovered that this makes him feel more or less like a man who is actively involved in a process rather than a kid who is ‘dragged by Mum’ into things he is less interested in or feels uncomfortable about.
As much as they still need safe and secure boundaries from their parent, they also need the freedom to start to make right and wrong decisions. They might make bad choices, but be careful how you berate them.
Allow them to learn and grow through making mistakes and talk about what went wrong and how to avoid that in the future.
I personally think now is a great time to start pocket money if you do not already do so, but you can do what is right for your family. With pocket money for my son, I give $1 for every year of age. This might soon have to change to $2 as he begins his high school years.
We talk about finances, I pay him extra to make my blog thumbnails, and YouTube Video clips, and I encourage him to do extra chores for cash when funds are available.
We have a list of jobs (he has 12 tasks as he is 12-years-old) and he is required to achieve each week to earn his ‘pocket money’, and when the list is completed he is paid each Saturday at the end of that period.
We also encourage him to ‘give’ to the poor and to ‘save’ for the future and this enables him to purchase larger items.
Some do this with three separate jars, and their child splits the pocket money into ‘saving’, ‘giving’, and ‘spending’.
7. Affection in private
Teenagers more than ever need to know they are loved and accepted and approved of by their parent/s and relatives. But this now becomes more a private show of affection as they grow older. Cuddles and hugs are still important to them, but gone are the days where you can publically ‘kiss and drop’ when taking your teen to school. There is nothing wrong with the kids still piling into the parent’s bed for ‘family cuddles’, prayers or a good movie, or if they are sick.
And there is definitely a need for a good squeezy hug and a kiss.
We constantly tell each other “I love you” and may that never cease, but I don’t shout it across the schoolyard from my car window because I respect my son, and do not wish to embarrass him.
8. Listening and talking to teenagers
I remember one tour guide we used that was supplied without our choice. It was a country where tour guides were required by the government and this tour guide only spoke to me and acted like my son was invisible. He knew I was a travel writer so he targeted his whole conversation to me at an adult level. He either completely ignored Explorason, or he cut Explorason off when he was talking to me. Adding insult to injury, his accent was difficult for Explorason to understand and he spoke VERY fast with few stops for air. So when he finally would take a tiny break in his long-winded speech, I would to quickly explain to Explorason what he was saying at a level he understood. Explorason had no time for questions. When he tried to ask me a question he was quickly shot down.
In no time at all Explorason completely lost interest. Explorason had a keen desire to make a YouTube video of the ruins we were at with one tour guide, and the guy was so controlling and gave him no time at all. Eventually, Explorason ran and hid to take the photos he needed. The YouTube video was made that night with a sense of pride that despite his obstacles, he had succeeded in his goal.
In Egypt, we finally had a great guide. His name was Waleed. He role-played with Explorason and engaged with him on his level. He made learning fun, humorous and relevant for his age. On the last day of our tour, he stopped the coach and made everyone wait whilst he took him for his promised Macdonalds meal. He understood and made Ecplorason feel important and it is no wonder that now Egypt and visiting the Pyramids of Giza is one of the highlights of his world travels.
I think when we were in Liechtenstein last New Year Eve I came to the realisation that my son no longer needed the approval of his Mum. He needed the approval of his friends. He needed the acceptance and approval of peers more than he needed my approval. This transference is a natural progression in life. He needed more time with kids his own age, and less time with me.
So as we head into 2018, can I encourage you as a parent that you are doing the best you can, and I hope that sharing this article with you has in some small way assisted you to be the best parent you can be?
This article was written with a full discussion between Explorason and I. We discussed how he feels, his needs, and what’s important to him as he approaches his teen years and then compiled this article together. So as much as it is my views as a parent, it is his views as a kid also. And when I asked him what he wanted the most, his answer was “RESPECT”.
When a teenager is treated with love, care and respect, it is much easier for them to give the same back – no matter how many hormones, insecurities and expectations are running wildly through their veins.
Help your child to grow into a young man or woman with love, care and respect.
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