You thought you were on the home stretch. You got through the crying baby phase, the terrible twos and all the ups and downs of primary school. Now you’re living with teenagers.
Living with teenagers – weird rules they live by
- All your shoes should block the doorway at all times.
- Empty food boxes go back in the pantry.
- When you hear “dinner”, immediately start a lengthy but important activity like homework or exercise.
- When you need to be driven to the shops to get something important, ask if you can stay in the car.
- Empty ice cube trays are stored in the freezer.
- Putting clean clothes back in the wash is heaps better than putting them away.
- Opening kitchen cabinets and walking off is a fun trick.
- After you finish drinking from a cup … drink more from a different cup.
- Going out as a family? Wait until everyone else is about to depart before you start to get ready.
- After saying “I’m coming” … don’t come.
- Be articulate only when you want something and otherwise a grunt will suffice.
- Leave a splash of milk in the container and put it away. Tell anyone who mentions it “it’s not empty”.
- When the rubbish bin is full … add more rubbish.
- Scrunch a towel properly and it can stay wet for a long time.
- Loading ice cubes into a glass with 65% accuracy then leaving the kitchen immediately is acceptable conduct.
- Any space within arms reach is a storage space.
- Eye rolling is communication.
- It’s fine to ignore your parents all day then be up for a chat at midnight. They love that.
Spoiler alert: I can’t solve all the problems above. And arguing about them can be counterproductive. Like any kind of shared cohabitation, living with teenagers requires compromise.
Implementing some simple strategies and systems might give you and your teen more structure to fall back on.
Living with teenagers – coping strategies
Having less stuff reduces overwhelm. It means there is less mess to be made, which reduces potential conflict. If your kid runs out of clothes they will be more likely to pick up and deposit washing. Also minimising gives your teen more time for things that matter like study and friendships. Check this post for the basics of decluttering.
Living with teens is one thing, decluttering for them is another. I don’t recommend going through their stuff in their absence as that might erode trust. Get your teen involved. Talk to them about space as a finite resource. Choosing enough T shirts for one drawer, or halving the amount of books are easy goals you could discuss. You can both decide on a reasonable volume of each category, then help them declutter to reach that goal.
You could suggest a one-in-one-out policy for new purchases (removing an item when a new one is acquired), or incentives for a regular clear out like a pamper session or Uber Eats meal.
My daughter LOVED choosing pretty containers to use as drawer dividers, it was a concept she had already seen on social media. Another incentive might be to redecorate their room with some new soft furnishings or a lick of paint. Or some new clothes if they have had a growth spurt.
Your teen is probably going to be easily bored and tired. You are keeping them away from key aspects of their routine like friends and technology. Keep your expectations low to minimise tension.
Maintaining an empty bin means your teen is more able to put things in. Keeping a tidy home is good modelling, and makes it more obvious when they have made a mess.
Give them some responsibilities like emptying the rubbish or feeding pets. Easier said than done, I know; but most teens like money so might respond well to financial incentive.
Labelling zones in the pantry and other shared spaces makes it easier for your teen to put things away. By saving them from having to think about the correct cupboard and risk failure and criticism, set them up for success with clear zones and labels.
Also, sometimes an impartial organiser and declutter coach is best for the sanity of teens and parents alike.