Sharilee obtained a degree in secondary English education from the University of Calgary. She has taught in Canada for ten years.
Teenagers are a different breed. They tend to be unpredictable, and not really into the same things we adults are—like making a living and cleaning our house. So, how do we get along with these sometimes moody creatures—the ones that used to be sweet, adorable children but have transformed into walking, talking sarcasm machines?
Well, as a former high school teacher and a stepmom to two teens, I hope I can offer some insight. Read this privately, though, please, because if your teenager were to see it, he would be not only shocked that you actually had to read about getting along with him, but he would probably see you as pretty incompetent. Just saying...
Okay, here's the list. Be sure to take notes, ladies and gentlemen, and don't blame me if it doesn't work. I really have no idea of how to speak to teenagers, either, but I am going to keep trying!
Tips for Getting Along with Teenagers
- Talk about popular culture. You have no idea how important this is to them. Music is their world. It's not just something they listen to, in their room at night. Their music is on all the time that it can be, including during school, if the teacher lets them get away with it. And don't assume that a particular teenager will like a certain artist, for example, Tupac or Taylor Swift, just because you know another teenager that likes them. (I made that mistake once: mentioning the band, "Billy Talent," to my class, thinking I could relate to them. Unfortunately, they almost laughed me out of the door!) Adolescents, just like adults, are very specific in their musical tastes, from hip hop to Emo, to heavy metal, to classic rock. I even had a classroom of students in Northern Canada who swore by country music. But even if you mess it up, keep talking: music, games, TV, and movies ... teens live for their popular culture, and learning about it, lets them know you're interested in their lives.
- Be casual. Teens today have a real "coolness" to them, and don't respond to being too serious, too fast. So, be casual with them, and don't act like you know everything. Be open to listening to them, and try to be "chill."
- Tease them. Bugging them just a little bit, is a sign of affection. Sarcasm may be the lowest form of humour, but it's definitely the adolescent's humour of choice. Be a little sarcastic with them, but always make sure they know you mean it in a fun way. Hard-nosed sarcasm intended to hurt, will hurt them!
- Be the adult. As much as they like you to have a relaxed attitude, don't take it too far. When something's important, stand your ground. You'll earn their respect, and they will feel good knowing that there are limits. If you're a parent, be a parent. If you're a teacher, be a teacher. If you're a youth leader, be a leader. They have friends already, but they need someone older who really does stick to what she says.Which brings me to my next point.
- Know how important friends are. Friends are everything to this generation. So many kids have been brought up in a divorce situation. Families have changed and are not stable, and friends are there to fill in the gap. They don't just talk to their friends once a night: it's all day, via texting, and sometimes half-way through the night. Be interested in their friends, and understand that they mean everything.
- Just be yourself. Teens are looking for something that's real, because they're looking for their own identity. They don't want you to be putting on masks, and pretending to be some big-shot. They want to know the "real you,:" even if they would never admit it. Don't be afraid of them. Their music is different than ours was, and they are a thousand times more knowledgeable about technology than most of us. Otherwise, though, they still have the same concerns and the same problems that teenagers have always had: boys, girls, identity, direction, hormones ... and they need you to be there, the adult.
They Are on Their Way Out
Finally, remember that they are on their way out. By that, I mean that their job is to leave their parents and go and live on in their own sometime in the next few years. They have to test you: to find out the truth. They have to get mad at you, sometimes, to know they can be separate from you, and still survive. Teenagers push us away and resist us, because it's part of the maturing process. They have to develop their own strength, and just like in fitness, strength comes from resistance.
Just remember, though, through the chaos of being around teenagers, that it won't last forever, and you know you will miss them when they leave. So, enjoy them: their craziness and zaniness. They are so alive, and so fun! I have found working with teenagers to be exhilarating, because of their energy and vitality. So, even after a particularly trying day of rebellion and frustration, don't give up. Teenagers are great people!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on April 04, 2012:
Brian, it sounds like you did great with her. It's especially not being a step parent but you kept at it. Good for you! I totally agree about giving them some space to be themselves. The last thing they need is to be smothered when they are trying so hard to become their own person.
Thanks so much for reading and that amazing comment. Take care!
Brian Slater from England on April 04, 2012:
Hi, there's some very good advice here. I have a step daughter who was hell to live with at first. Without really trying as I almost gave up on her she started to warm towards me. I must have been tryingtoo hard. So instead I was just myself and let her be herself, mutual respect for each other. We have become very close now, we talk or text each other every day. I would say to someone new to this, don't push them to hard to like you, give them some space to breathe, take an interest in whatever they do, but remember your the parent not their mate. Voted up awesome. :)
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on October 05, 2011:
Giselle, thank you so much for your lovely comment! Yes, it is a very different time and they do seem to change quite a bit at that age. I try to be a good stepmom; thanks so much and take care!
Giselle Maine on October 03, 2011:
A fascinating insight into teenagers. My two kids are very young, but I still found your article very useful just to have an idea what to expect in the teen years. The bit about popular culture and music was especially interesting and helpful. You must be such a dedicated and good (step)mom.
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 09, 2011:
Moira, thank you so much for the comment. (Sorry for the delay; been on a break from HP).
So your boy is still in the preteens. There is a HUGE difference when they reach the teen years, so enjoy him now and keep building those bridges so that as he gets older, your relationship is strong. Take care and thanks again!
Moira Garcia Gallaga from Lisbon, Portugal on July 25, 2011:
Lovely hub prairieprincess. I am about 4 years away from having a teenager, a boy, so I will take note of your very useful advice and keep it handy for when the time comes. :)
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on April 20, 2011:
Felicia, that's good that you are trying to just live for the moments, because that's what kids are about, right? I'm glad you could relate to this. I know sometimes I feel annoyed, too, by the teens in my house, but it would boring without them, too!
Take care. Thank you for a great comment!
FeliciaM from Canada on April 20, 2011:
Great read. Thanks! Having two teens of my own I can relate. I have been thinking lately how I will even miss their annoying habits when they are gone! I'm trying to live in the moment and take what may come!
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on March 30, 2011:
Ademeto, I hope it helps! Thanks so much for commenting.
ademeto on March 29, 2011:
its a good one,these wil help to relate well with the teens in my organisation
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on March 08, 2011:
Twin, that's a great insight that we need to remember how we felt at that age ... I've often thought about how my poor Mom must have felt sometimes with me, with my little attitude as a teenager!
Thanks so much for commenting and I will have to check out your hub (I think I may have already seen it, but will check again.) Take care.
Linda Rogers from Minnesota on March 07, 2011:
You really did a great job outlining how to deal with the generation gap. We really need to remember that we were once teens and they are just like us but younger and trying out their personalities. I too, like Tammy L, am an aunt of teens. Now that I live with them too, I am finding out how tough it can be at times. Patience, love and finding that common ground is helpful. I did a tongue and cheek hub on Teens too. This was a great read.
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on December 03, 2010:
Whidbeywriter, thank you so much. Once they become teenagers, they're whole different creatures, aren't they? I wish you all the best in communicating with your grandkids! Take care ...
Mary Gaines from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington on December 02, 2010:
Great info here, as a grandmother of teenagers this will certainly help me talk to them more. Cheers!
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on November 28, 2010:
Deborah, thank you so much for the kind comment ... and Amen, we keep pressing on! Sometimes that is exactly what we have to do!
Tammy L, thank you so much for the vote!!! And yah, we have to vote for ourselves, but it's all in fun, right? Thank you so much and take care!
Tammy L from Jacksonville, Texas on November 27, 2010:
I voted for this hub. I would have voted for your pet hub if mine wasn't nominated as well. HeeHee. Oh well, may the best hub win. :)
You do have very valuable tips for any parent of a teen (or in my case the aunt of a teen).
Deborah Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on November 27, 2010:
Congratulations again on the hubnugget nomination.
Teens are a hard lot. It is a long journey, raising kids, and the teen years have been some of the hardest. But we keep pressing on.
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on November 26, 2010:
ripplemaker, thank you so much for this honour! Even just to be nominated is such a pleasure and encourages me to keep writing. All the best and Happy Thanksgiving!
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on November 26, 2010:
Another Hubnuggets hub from you! Wwwhhhheeeee...this is fantastic! To view your nomination and for all the hubbers (also non hubbers) who want to vote, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/e24X3R
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on November 21, 2010:
KoffeeKlatchGirls, thank you so much. I agree ... most of these are from my classroom experience. Yes, it's hard to remember that they are "just kids," when they're testing you like crazy! I know! Take care, and thanks again for stopping by.
Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2010:
Great suggestions, they work for school also. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and forget these teenagers are still kids not aliens.
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on November 20, 2010:
Ha ha, coolbreeze, that's funny! Thank you so much!
Rik Rodriguez from Hawaii on November 19, 2010:
If my teachers could have read this hub! Very informative
Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on November 07, 2010:
Dolores: thank you so much for your comment. I agree about kindness: they need it going through such a crazy time! And to you and Tlpoague, I agree that a sense of humor is an absolute must ... teens are so funny that's it not hard!
Tammy from USA on November 06, 2010:
I have found as a mother of two teenagers that a sense of humor goes a long way. Great hub!
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on November 06, 2010:
Great suggestions on how to get along with your teenagers. As a mother of 4, I found that a sense of humor and lots of kindness works well.