I have not birthed a child, held one in my arms, and felt what it is like to see my own creation. I have not become a parent.
But I do know what it is like to be held and raised by two really wonderful parents — to be parented.
Throughout high school, my relationship with my parents fluctuated. Both my mom and dad went out of their way to make sure I had the kind of childhood I’d someday show my own kids in a scrapbook with bright colors and lots of glitter.
We fought on occasion, and there were times when I thought they were the worst people in the world. Teenage angst aside, they were the kind of mom and dad most kids dream of having.
A lot of my friends weren't as fortunate. Their parents weren't around to care when big things were occurring in their lives and pretty much left them to grow up on their own.
I suppose these tips are for those parents and the many to come. No one should ever have to occupy such a unique time period without guardians that love and value them.
Remember who you once were.
I imagine it is hard to remember what it was like to be a teenager, especially when that day and age has long since passed.
But in order to truly understand what your child is going through, you have to go back to the age of humid high school halls and beer-stained basements.
Remember what kinds of things you struggled with, how you handled them and what you would do differently. Share your teenage experience with your son or daughter so he or she can learn from your triumphs and failures.
Don’t make your child earn your trust.
There is nothing more frustrating than having to update your mom or dad every two minutes on your location and status.
If you make an effort to show your child trust from the start, he or she won’t lie about whereabouts, friends, grades, etc. and in turn, you will have nothing to worry about.
It will actually be a win-win situation for both of you because your child won't have to make up lies and you won't have to waste time investigating for the truth.
Needless to say, some kids will end up losing parents' trust by taking advantage of it. If that turns out to be the case with your child, make him or her earn it back.
Overreacting is beyond obnoxious.
There is nothing worse than telling your parents something and having them freak out and jump to unnecessary conclusions before you even get a chance to explain yourself. If your daughter tells you she failed her pre-calc quiz, don’t immediately start yelling.
Let her tell you what happened: why she did so poorly, how she can improve it or what percentage of her overall grade it will count for. If you start yelling, your child will start to keep things from you, which is the last thing you want.
Accept experimentation; it's inevitable.
If your kid is anything like the teenagers I went to high school with, or even myself for that matter, he or she is going to f*ck up big time. Expect him or her to come home drunk at least once, to try smoking weed and to cut school.
The amount of firsts enclosed between the ages of 13 and 18 is what makes being a teenager so special. Let your child have firsts and make mistakes, and only make a fuss if he or she is in danger or endangering others.
Remember there is a huge difference between experimenting and making habits out of something unhealthy — teach your child that.
Challenge your child daily with household responsibilities.
Weirdly enough, one of the few critiques I have for my own parents’ parenting during my teenage years revolves around the lack of responsibilities that were given to me in our household.
I didn’t necessarily want to do laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, or cook dinner in high school -- no one does. But now that I am about to leave for college, I wish I had gotten used to cleaning up after myself more.
In the fall, I am going to have to learn how to separate dirty laundry so that colors don’t bleed in the wash and clean my bathroom.
Force your kids to get off the couch and help you; they may hate you for it in the moment, but it will establish long-term independence that they’ll look back and thank you for.
Don’t be a dream-killer.
I didn’t write these tips in any particular order, but if I had, this one would be at the very top of the list.
Let your child dream; encourage him or her to actually pursue those dreams. If your kid shows up with a really crazy opportunity, a leap of faith in a direction you’ve never explored, don’t place your own comfort-zone limitations on him or her.
Instead, be happy to see him or her try something you personally wouldn't. After all, it's not your life to live.
You’re the parent, not the best friend.
You are not 16, so by no means should you be playing a role of one of your child’s friends from school.
A lot of my friends in high school had parents who played the friend card. I knew a girl who shared alcohol with her parents, meaning that if her mom needed wine for a dinner party, she’d borrow one she bought previously for her daughter.
As you can imagine, their relationship was dysfunctional, and her mom was so used to being a friend that she couldn’t create consequences when her daughter made really poor decisions.
Being more of a friend to your kid than a parent takes away all of your authority and creates an unhealthy ideal of nurturing for your child.
Accept and love your child.
I’ve been told that having a kid is the only time in your life that you’ll find yourself loving something or someone, unconditionally. That being said, let your child know every day how much you love him or her.
For me, my parents' acceptance of who I am has the most profound effect out of all the ways that they choose to show their love.
Such absolute acceptance allowed me to develop into a person I find to be genuine, original and happy.
I learned to turn a cheek to the judgment of others and do my own thing, mostly because I realized the people who matter will still love me at the end of the day.
I hope you voice the importance of individuality to your child and emphasize that his or her actions cannot deplete the amount of love you have to give.
Photo Courtesy: NBC/Fresh Prince of Bel Air