What our Experts want you to know about parenting teens and tweens
Although it's probably been a decade (or, ahem, several) since we've been tweens and teens, it's a time in many people's lives that is full of feelings and identity crises.
For the second anniversary of the SheKnows Experts Among Us community, we reached out to the Experts to get their advice on parenting through some of the most emotional years in a young person's life. Here is their funny, insightful and beautiful advice for anyone parenting a teen or tween.
"Even though I don't have a tween or teen just yet (my oldest is only 6 years old), I can say one of the biggest things I know from when I was a teen with my own mom was to keep the lines of communication open and be there to talk and listen, because even if they don't seem to want to share as they are growing up, they still do need your love, support and guidance." — Expert Janine Huldie
"Don't feel a need to get the last word. And get a dog to provide for your need for unconditional love." — Expert Susan Jensen Smith
"If I've learned anything after having three teenage daughters, it's that they might not want to listen, but they do follow your example. If I'm healthy and set the example, they ultimately follow suit. Modeling the behavior I want my children to adopt is the best way to 'brainwash' your kids into adopting healthy habits. My other piece of advice is to hang in there because it's priceless when they become adults and say to you, 'Hey, you and mom were right...'" — Expert Dr. Mark Burhenne
"Remembering the importance of downtime, mutual support and building good study habits got the middle school years off to a healthy start." — Expert Lorraine Akemann
"Try and sympathize with them, but only sometimes. Their bodies are changing, their brain is all over the place and they are dealing with things that no parent really wants to talk about." — Expert Jasmine Smith
"Don't take it personally — they hate everyone at this age, and love everyone at this age. Do take it personally — they still want and need your influence!" — Expert Heather Lewis Kenny
"Snoop if you have to. Their mental and physical safety is of the utmost importance." — Expert Heather Steiger
"As a developmental psychologist I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the number one mistake parents make with their tweens is changing their parenting style. There is a way to listen to your daughter without being her 'friend.' I see it all the time — tween girls start to learn how to manipulate their 'friend parent' instead of respecting the boundaries their parent used to have on them. Trying to find the balance between being overbearing and a total doormat is something I work with parents on all the time!" — Expert Dr. Cooper Lawrence
"Give them a little breathing room, and trust that they're smarter than you realize. Hover, poke, prod, insert yourself too much and you'll drive them away. That said, be present enough to know when they need your guidance, advice, shoulder, ear or to hear you say no. It's a balancing act. They need roots and wings." — Expert Margot Potter
"Don't debate... that just leads to a circular argument. Instead state what you want and expect, and provide clear consequences." — Expert Kerri Ames
"Let them make as many choices as possible and let them feel the consequences of their choices. It's really hard not to intervene sometimes, but it empowers them and shows them that you trust their choices. As they get older, they're going to face more and more situations where they have to make difficult choices without their parents, and the more life experiences they've had, the better choices they'll make. This is the hardest part of parenting for me." — Expert Tracy Gibb
"Know your teen/tween. Knowing them means spending time with them, observing them... long before they become teens. Have healthy boundaries. If you have healthy boundaries it teaches them to have healthy boundaries. Love unconditionally. Never give up on them and most important — in my humble opinion — don't parent out of fear!" — Expert Shari Lynne
"Pick your battles. Let them become their own person but set boundaries." — Expert Jennifer Weltz
"1) Resist the urge to jump in and 'fix' things — they want you to listen, not fix. 2) Monitor their social media accounts but don't comment on anything they post. Ever. 3) Don't judge. The most important thing they have to learn during these years is how to make decisions — even if they're not good ones. (This doesn't apply to life-threatening decisions, of course.) 4) Let them fail, get fired, lose a friend. It's better to have it happen now when they're in a safe environment and can bounce back easier." — Expert Kristen Daukas
"This is what I've learned from 25 years of teaching middle school and 20 years of parenting: Make clear boundaries, logical consequences, high expectations and unconditional love. Tell them you care. Tell them they are important. Be firm and loving... They are still learning, after all." — Expert Jennifer Wolfe
"So I have a 3-year-old that just turned 14, I mean 4 — so I don't quite have a teenager, but I heard this once and thought it was brilliant: Let them blame you. When it comes to them trying to get out of something with their friends, let them use you as an out. So if their friend wants them to try smoking they might say, 'Oh, God. My mother would punish me for the next five years if she smelled it on me.' It allows them to say no in an uncomfortable situation by blaming you." — Expert Jennifer Legra
"My experience with my teenagers is to leave your door open for them to talk. My children and I are always talking. We are not friends. There are boundaries. But they need to know they can trust you. For instance, my youngest son asked me what I look for in a man. He was trying to figure out the girl he likes." — Expert JRosemarie Francis
"Humor. Laugh at yourself and the situation. Never at your teen. Relax. Patience. Understand that in their eyes you know nothing, but someday they will realize (and admit) that you know everything. I'm starting on teen number four (she's 11). Been around this track a few times. Trust is big with teens. Be a parent, not a friend — they will respect you. Be willing to make the hard calls — it's not fun but must be done. Tell them you love them every day. Tell them you are proud of them every day. Listen to what they have to say. Don't be afraid to call in a mediator to help work out terrible disagreements. Be an example of who you want them to become and whom they should want in their lives. I could keep going but..." — Expert Tammi Young
"As a former social worker who has worked with high-risk families and parented three teens of my own, my best advice is to make sure that your teens don't replace you, the parent, with a peer or peers as the most important person in their life. A simple tip I would give parents is to make sure you physically hug your child every day (even when they are being difficult). That means going in your child's bedroom (knock first) and physically hugging them and saying, "I love you and I will always be there for you." You most likely will not get a response from them, particularly from the troubled teen who is hiding away in their bedroom, but trust me, this simple action will have a big impact on your future relationship with your teen. Some teens can really push your "buttons" and there will be some days (even weeks!) when you will not feel like doing this, but it does make a difference." — Expert Joanne Galbraith
"I currently have four teens! Communication and trust are very important in maintaining an open and honest relationship. My kids know they can talk to me about anything with no judgement. They can call me if they find themselves in a a bad situation and I will be there, no questions asked (until we get home, of course)." — Expert Jennifer Swartvagher
Read what our Experts are writing at sheknows.com/experts.