“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands." – Anne Frank
It is such a common experience for parents to speak of how challenging their children’s teenage years are or were. There are frequent comments from parents such as: “I just don’t get why we can’t connect like we used to.”, “We used to be so close but now they only want to hang out with their friends.”, “Why are they so emotional now”? Teenage years for each child will be unique and present its own challenges. As a parent you have your own natural style of parenting. These tips can be incorporated into your existing parenting style.
1. Practice your own self care and give yourself some grace.
Many argue that being a parent is one of the hardest ongoing roles that someone can have in their lifetime. There is a guarantee that your teen will push some of your buttons and although you are the parent, you will also need support as well. For some, self care can mean therapy, going out with friends, working out, or participating in hobbies that they enjoy. You can find what best suits you for self care but the most important part is actually practicing it. This also is a great way to model for your teenagers the importance of taking care of yourself first and focusing on your well being as an individual. Self care is not selfish, it is truly one of the best things that you can do for your child.
2. Remind your teen that you love them, despite any decisions that you might personally disagree with.
As a parent you want what is best for your teen and want to see them flourish. And this can be one of the hardest stages to stay grounded in that unconditional love. At this stage in your teenagers life it is completely normal for them to explore their identity, values, and interests. These are formative years for your child and will result in prioritizing friends over you and testing certain boundaries. This is a normal stage of development and actually is linked to healthy development, although it sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Stay firm in reminding your child of your love and separate your child’s action from your love for them. You might be frustrated with their behavior, but showing them that this does not actually change your love for them is very powerful.
3. Learn your teen’s love language.
There are multiple ways that each individual receives love and also gives loves to others. Some teens might enjoy playing a sport together, others will speak to you in the car honestly when they are not having to look you in the eyes. Some will respond well to you praising them when they have done something that you are proud of. There are standard ways that each person can feel seen and it is so important to find out what works well for your teen, specifically. Continuing to stay curious about what allows you to develop a bond with your teen can go a long way with them. And keep in mind, what works for one of your children might not work at all for the next one. There are online quizzes that you can do with your teen for free to get some tailored recommendations depending on their specific love language. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/teens/
4. Allow your teen to make mistakes.
This may be one of the scariest things for you as a parent. Many parents have made their own mistakes when they were younger and do not want their children to repeat them. But so much of what we all learn is through our own mishaps. It will be very tempting to rescue your children, but letting them making their own choices when appropriate supports them with integral skills that will stay with them once they have left your home. Such as, critical thinking, self awareness, adaptability, and being able to reflect on one’s actions afterwards. Allowing room for mistakes in your household sends the message to teens that they don’t have to be perfect and they are loved despite making mistakes. This will also encourage your teen to be more honest with you rather than them feeling that they need to be secretive.
5. Have open and effective communication
Empathy and understanding can go a long way with your teen. As many have said, if you don’t tell them about something they will get their information somewhere else. Try to use conversations with your teens surrounding uncomfortable topics as a chance to connect family values to your teenager. Speaking openly with them allows you to impart some of your family values or individual values into their perspective. It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with what values are important to you and brainstorm practical ways that you can link these to real life situations that are happening in your teenager’s life.
Ways to listen well:
Be in the here and now. If your teenager is speaking to you about something important this is a very special opportunity and might not happen often.
Ground yourself. Take a deep breath, keep your cool, remind yourself that your teenager will not be a teenager forever.
Give your child your full attention. That means no TV, no computer, no phone.
Practice summarizing what your teenager is saying so that they know that you are listening. This can look like saying “ I see what you mean” or “that situation sounds really frustrating.”
Validate their feelings, remind them it is okay to have feelings and to ask for help.