Parenting teens is a minefield at times. The amount of content from the entertainment industry, and it’s resulting fandoms, is immense. Mind boggling really. But…I think this has been the case in most of modern history. Each successive generation looks at that their children and what they like as teens and thinks: “What the hell? It wasn’t like that when I was younger.”
It wasn’t. But that fact shouldn’t paralyze you.
I had some thoughts about this. It comes from my own experiences as a parent and from my former life when I worked with teens. Take the following words as a point of view, not a parenting guide. Everyone has to figure stuff out on what works best for them for themselves and their family.
I am a nerdy dad. I like a wide variety of music. I watch anime, sci-fi/ fantasy, and am mildly literate in the world of internet memes. Having two teen boys, I do okay. I can connect with them on things that they happen to like.
But is it that simple?
Yes and no.
It’s not enough to have off beat interests. It also means being interested in your teen’s world.
Teen years are one of increasing independence. Their peer group becomes a lot more important. They try on new personalities. Develop their own interests.
As a parent this is both cool to see and potentially frightening and sad. That kid who was once super dependent on you, now is less so. They don’t think the stuff you like is that cool anymore. They like stuff that is weird that their friends introduced them to. You have lost influence. In losing that, it also feel like you lose connection to them. That’s hard.
So what do parents do sometimes? They try to reconnect with their kids. Show them things that you think are cool. Criticize the things that they like also happens.
This works and doesn’t to varying degrees.
In order to bond with your teens, what has kid of worked for me, is joining.
“Joining” is a term that I picked up from my Family Therapy background. It means just that. You “join”, or ally, yourself with another person.
So how do you do this with your teen?
What do they like? Do they watch anime? Vampire Diaries? Steven Universe? Do they play Undertale? Overwatch? Listen to some band you have never heard of?
Find ways to ask them about it. Not in an over bearing way.
Watch an episode of their favorite show with them. If the show isn’t something you would typically like, is there an element you do like about it? Why do they like it? Why is it cool to them.
Sometimes the answers will surprise you. I never would have given much thought to Steven Universe if I hadn’t listened to my boys talk about the messages around inclusion that the show has. That’s cool! And it’s cool that they value this!
What about the music they listen to? Let them play you the music they like. Find the elements that you can appreciate about it and tell them. I don’t like every song that my boys like, and they know this. But I also don’t tell them that what they like sucks…when you do that you shut down communication. Find out what they like and why.
Having an interest in what is important to your teen goes a long way.
Having said this, here is the crux: It has to be a genuine interest. You can’t just be feigning interest to push your point of view. They can sense that.
Does this mean you need to like or validate all things? Absolutely not.
But by joining with your kids to see why they are fans of what they are fans of helps open dialog.
I’m never going to validate things that are openly racist, homophobic, sexist, or abusive and my boys know this. I will have that discussion with them.
Which brings us to fandoms…
It is where people go from liking a thing, to the online (sometimes obsessive) fan expressions of devotion to what ever that thing may be.
Fandoms can run the spectrum from being positive or innocuous to creepy and/or abusive.
Be aware of this as a parent. If you are able, talk to your teen about it. If you have a concern: express it. This doesn’t mean trying to ban them from being a fan or viewing fan material online, but do talk honestly about your concerns. Teens should be given the tools to know to draw appropriate boundaries between themselves, what they like, and unhealthy expressions of what they like. There are people in fandoms that create creepy content (why does there need to be MLP porn?) and people who get abusive online about their fandom. Have conversations about this.
This is an incoherent post, I know.
But it had some thoughts IU wanted to express.
Until next time: Happy viewing!
Feel free to comment.