“Teenagers are the most misunderstood people on the planet. They are treated like children and expected to act like adults.”
Au Pairing a Teenager
Let’s face it – Teenagers are horrible! We have all been there, done that, gone through it and might still have a t-shirt of it stuffed away very deep in some closet.
This ‘horrible’ teenager behavior is nothing to be scared of. It is normal. Think about what is happening in that poor teen’s life. They are changing in every way – body, mind and soul. Think back a few years to when you were a teen. Remember how you felt? How you looked? How you thought you looked? How you wished you had someone you could talk to and wouldn’t judge you? That is probably how they feel and why they act out. Why not use those memories and experience to be there for the teen?
Don’t be scared to Au Pair for a family with teenagers. Although it can be very challenging and test your patience, you will be rewarded. You can make a lifelong friend! Most of the time teenagers prefer talking to a person they can trust. Be that person for them! They do not necessarily want to talk to their parents about everything. Let them know that you are there for them and that you can be trusted. You will have to back up those statements with actions so make sure you show them that you can keep a secret.
Tips for coping
by Relate, the relationship people
- Stay positive– things can change. Don’t assume the worst or the teenager will too. Look for signs of change and notice when things go well, even for a short time. Try to be a positive voice in their lives – it affirms that they can have a positive future even if things are difficult now.
- Like who they are– try to separate the behavior from the person. Remember all their good qualities and try not to be overpowered by what you don’t like about their behavior right now. The teenager may be behaving badly but that doesn’t make them a bad person.
- Be there – contrary to how it may seem at times, the teenagers do want to talk to you. But you need to let it be in their time and at their pace. Listen to their ideas, don’t interrupt or try to tell them what to do.
- Be reassuring– a lot of teenagers are scared by the feelings they’re experiencing and the new wave of responsibilities that they have to take on. They need lots of reassurance that they’re not going mad and they will cope.
- Be consistent– try to set clear and consistent boundaries which also respect their boundaries to help them to foster their own sense of security whilst in inner turmoil. Be ready to discuss the rationale behind your behavior and your rules. Remember that they’re learning from you how to be and think like an adult.
- Be approving– research confirms that both males and females have higher self-esteem in early adolescence if they think that they have the approval and support from their families.
- Be patient– while teenagers are trying to find the right balance of behaviours and independence, they often swing too far in the opposite direction. But in time, the pendulum will swing back and settle in a more comfortable position.
- Be gentle– even though the teenager may act as though they’re indestructible, their emotions are still very fragile – so handle with care.
- Be loving– remember that although the child may seem to be pushing you away, they still need your love.
- Be honest– sometimes you will feel stressed and emotional yourself. Don’t be afraid of letting the teenager know how you feel. Each time you do, you’re showing them that it’s okay not to be perfect and it’s okay not to have all the answers.
- Be supported– don’t be alone. Especially when times are tough, talk it through with someone who won’t judge or criticize you. Find a friend, family member or counselor who will offer support and encouragement. Take time out to vent any frustrations rather than bottling things up and letting rip at home.
- Forgive and forget– Not so easy. But be prepared to manage the conflict and arguments, repair your relationship with the teen and move on. If you don’t find a way to let go of past resentments they won’t either. Small disagreements soon build into huge arguments leaving you both wondering what happened.
- Be hopeful – this is only a phase. It is normal for teenagers to drift away from and even reject you. But it’s also normal for them to come back and develop a meaningful relationship that will last the rest of your lives.
Try to be a role model for the teen instead of an authority figure. If the teen sees that you can keep calm in stressful situations, they might follow suit. If you can be calm during arguments, they will see that it is possible for them to stay calm as well.
In our previous blog, Au Pairs – Rules and Boundaries we have emphasized the importance of consistency, and patience. With teenagers, the same rule applies!