How to appreciate and enjoy your teen

Tips on how to enjoy and appreciate your teen. Sounds too good to be true, right? You can enjoy your teenager without having a lobotomy.

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  • I'm always surprised at the amount of negative responses I receive when I tell people I have two teenagers. It isn't always sunshine and daisies but, overall, I really enjoy them.

  • Spend time with them

  • I know this might sound like a crazy idea, but spending time with your teen might prove enjoyable. As a working divorced parent, I understand how easy it is to establish a pattern revolving around work and school. By the time you get home, you aren't interested in much of anything and weekends are spent catching up on household chores. It is easy for teens to get lost in the shuffle. Set aside time out of your day to spend with them even if it means just going outside to weed the yard together. Teach them to cook their favorite dinner. Go to the gym together. Allow them to pick a concert for the two of you to attend. Celebrate no Ds or Fs on their report cards with a trip to the ice cream parlor. Really, the possibilities are endless as long as you tell them how much you appreciate the time you spend together.

  • Give them space

  • Yes, spending time with your teen is great but please, don't smother them. Allow your teen some personal space and time to do activities by themselves. They need time to read, write, talk to friends, play games, explore social media or decompress in their room by themselves.

  • Let them express themselves

  • Allow your teen creative license to express their personality. My ex-husband still struggles with allowing our teens to express themselves with clothing, hair style and makeup. Our son had a buzz cut since birth until he decided to grow it out in junior high. He had anxiety over dad's pressure to cut it off. In addition, dad teased him when he purchased skinny skins. While I agree it is important to set boundaries (no piercings, tattoos or ear gauging) I feel it is equally important to allow teens the ability to dress in a way to express their individual personality without scrutiny.

  • Talk

  • Talk about school, movies, music, topics in the news, anything and everything. Talk about a common interest. I've found that once my kids became comfortable talking to me, they are more willing to discuss situations or debate controversial topics. I've learned to offer the facts, discuss both sides of the argument and don't push your ideas. State your position and emphasize your morals in the issue. Some kids become defiant the more you try to push your stance. Respect them and let them form their own opinion at their own pace. You don't agree with your parents all the time, but you still respect them, right?

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  • Be goofy & laugh

  • I take advantage of every opportunity to laugh and be silly. I've worn bright red contact lenses when I've volunteered as hall monitor. I've rocked a Weird Al concert and sang every song at the top of my lungs. I'll run down the aisle with the shopping cart when I take them to the store. Sometimes, I'll grab their hand and skip in the parking lot. Yup, watching a fat lady skip is kinda funny. The key is to let them know it is OK to laugh, and laugh with them — not at them. My teens and I share a handful of inside jokes. We remind ourselves about the funny things that have happened in our (mis)adventures. And sometimes, they surprise me with quick wit and silliness.

  • Appreciate them

  • Remember a time when your teen was little? You taught them how to say "please" and "thank you" but somewhere along the line you've forgotten those same courtesies. Our busy parenting schedules often have us forgetting to tell our children how much we appreciate their help with even the simplest tasks. If they don't do it right, don't sweat the small stuff. Be thankful.

  • Love them

  • My mom always said to me, "Sometimes those who don't deserve love the most are the ones who need love the most." As a parent, you are going to have some very frustrating moments. Maybe your son took the car without asking, your daughter is failing art or they are just full of attitude. You might blow up and say something hurtful in a fit of frustration. Your teen is probably feeling bad about screwing up, and your toxic words only add resentment and tension to the situation.

  • Changing the atmosphere is as simple as a hug and telling them how much you love them. I often start with telling them how sorry I am for overreacting. I explain my frustration or fear. I discuss the mistake from my perspective as a parent and stress that it doesn't change my feelings of love I have for them. I give them a big hug and let them know it will be OK. Your teen may have an adult body, but deep down they are still kids in need of mom and dad's love.

  • Growing up is going to have some mistakes. Your job as a parent is to help them along the journey. You aren't perfect so how can you expect perfection from them? Enjoy and appreciate every minute living, laughing and loving your teen.

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Abby Patonai is a Utah native and divorced mother of two teenagers. Contact her at abbypatonai@gmail.com.

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