3 Tips to Parenting Teens
Adolescence is challenging time for both teens and parents. Here are a few things to keep in mind when teens/parenting becomes challenging. This stage is a time for understanding, listening with an open heart and being open to conversations that build connections.
Adolescence is the stage of development where they are learning to be separate from parents, learning who they are and striving for independence. It is important to understand these tasks as a parent especially when we tell our teens to do something and our teen, striving to be different from you, is likely to do the opposite so they can achieve … difference/ separation.
It is hard to step back and let our teens learn from their actions. Keep in mind it might be better to get fired from their first summer job at McDonald’s than their first job after graduating college/university.
Also, be sensitive to their needs/timelines, some teens are ready to be independent and this can be encouraged while others aren’t quite ready to leave the nest. Pushing for premature independence can lead our teens to gravitate towards their peer for support and encouragement. Teens will leave on their timetable – provide the opportunities, build on their successes – they will fly.
Adolescence is a confusing time! Adolescence is the time of puberty, changing bodies, increased hormones and increased responsibility. Teens are no longer a “baby” yet they are not an “adult” – they are in between. For some teens, the approaching freedom of college or university is exciting and exhilarating yet for others a frightening daunting adventure. They are taught in 9th grade they need to” know what they want to do for the rest of their lives” – this notion can be frightening to an uncertain teen.
This is also the time they learn about relationships – peers and romantic relationships. Another intimidating challenge. It can be hard to talk to parents, peers about these topics. So they turn to the internet – an overwhelming source of information (some of which is wrong or misleading).
Listening with an open heart
This is the hardest one of all. As parents we are used to managing skinned knees – we know it will heal and all will be well. Teen concerns carry more risks for sure – drugs, sex and ability to drive all serious things. Listening to what our teen are saying can help us understand where they are and we can offer some additional information for them to consider.
For example, saying “Don’t do drugs son” Closes the door to future conversations. If he is experiencing strong peer pressure, supporting him in finding ways to save face with his friend and not do drugs or helping him remain safe if he experiments (we don’t want them driving under the influence or being in a car with someone who is impaired) may be more helpful to your teen.
Empathize with your teen and avoid giving advice or solving their problem, as we want to connect with their experience of the situation. At this stage of their development, our job is now more geared towards influencing their behaviour versus controlling it. Control is us telling them something. Influence helps them to make well thought out solutions from the inside out. We planted the moral ethical seeds earlier now we support the growth.
This is the time to listen and understand not to judge or preach….our purpose now is to appreciate their lives and experiences. Everyone needs support or a caring person in their lives…be that for your teen.
Also try to connect with your teen daily….Meal time is a great time to do this. If schedules make regular family sit down meals difficult then find other ways to connect – a walk, hug at the end of the day, praising them for their accomplishments….even small ones can go along way to build connections.
Be Open to ALL conversations with your teen
Being available when your teen wants to talk is important. They need to know that we are still there for them. When they come to talk make sure you give them all of your attention. If you are in the middle of a crucial work or email or are expecting an urgent phone call, explain that and then make sure your return to the conversation.
Also being willing to talk about anything – sex drugs whatever. Ensuring that our teens get accurate information is crucial. If you are uncomfortable talking about sex with your teen is there another family member who would be able to discuss this topic with them. If we don’t discuss it with our teens they will get information from the internet or their friends. Do you really want you son or daughter to learn about sex or drugs from the internet?
Keeping an open door “we can talk about anything” policy, helps teens know they are supported, ensures they have the correct information, you can share your thoughts (remember we are influencers not lecturers) and we can help them work through challenging issues.
And don’t forget Self Care
Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart. We also need to be calm and relaxed. If we are overstressed we might tend to overreact or shut down the conversations. Find ways to recharge yourself. Taking up a sport, going for a walk, or rekindle an old favorite hobby. Find someone to vent to who is non-judgemental and supportive and deal with any your personal unresolved issues will be helpful.
Having a supportive partner who is on the same page regarding parental disciple can be a life saver as well. Parenting can create problems in the marital relationship if there are unresolved issues or lack of closeness in the relationship it can make parenting more challenging. Find ways to rekindle the relationship, yes to date night but also little acts of kindness daily can be a great incentive to feeling positive and connected to your partner.
If marital or personal issues are present, it can be helpful to connect with a therapist to resolve these concerns and assist you in finding a common ground to parenting your teen or reconnecting with your partner. Just as your teen needs support so do you – so having a partner in parenting is very important.
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