Parenting a teen can seem much like parenting a toddler through the terrible twos. At both stages, your child is experiencing new things, testing boundaries, throwing tantrums and developing their own independence. Parenting a teen can be difficult when communication is strained because a teen’s decisions can have consequences. Because of this, a strong parent-child relationship is important. Here are several tips for getting through the teen years:
Listen. Teens tend to be reluctant to answer direct questions. Listen to their indirect ways of reaching out and sharing information. It may be what seems like a dismissive comment about the day or a statement indicating a new lack of interest, however, even those forms of communication are telling you something.
Validate. Resist the parental urge to solve the problem and don’t minimize the situation. Understand and empathize with the disappointment being shared.
Give Trust. Boost confidence by demonstrating your faith and trust in your child’s abilities. Your teen wants to feel mature, therefore, find ways to show you are recognizing their maturation into the teen years.
Praise. Just as you applauded your toddler for accomplishing new tasks, applaud your teen. Your teen may appear too cool to care but praise boosts self-esteem and encourages a positive relationship.
Control Yourself. Parenting a teen can be frustrating, however, as an adult, you can better control your emotions. Take a deep breath or a short pause before responding to their emotions.
Bond. Teens aren’t the most effective communicators. Talking isn’t the only way to connect. Outdoor activities, crafting together and other activities which you both enjoy allow for you and your teen to talk and enjoy each other without your teen feeling the pressure of possibly having to answer uncomfortable questions.
Observe. Look for changes in sleep patterns, appetite, behavior and mood. These could be nonverbal signs asking for your support and guidance.
Keeping the parent-teen relationship strong during these formative years can be challenging. Implementing these strategies along with simple activities such as sharing meals together on a regular basis can help. The ultimate goal is to create a comfortable, judgment free environment for your teen so sharing harder things with you doesn’t feel embarrassing or potentially confrontational.