Being a parent is already hard enough, but when they get to those not so delightful teenage years, whew, a hard job gets harder. From mood swings and attitudes to straight up rebellions and them being embarrassed by our very existence, teens can definitely be a handful and thensome. Most parents find relationships with their soon-to-be adult strained during these trying years and struggle to connect with them beyond battles over teenage angst.
However, often times we forget that the teenage years are confusing for both parent and child, and we unfairly give our minis a bad rap. We have to remember that we were there at one point ourselves, and just like us, our teenagers are likely just trying to find themselves and push the boundaries of what they can live with and accept in themselves and in others. Learning to navigate this unique space with your teen can be difficult, but like everything else in life, connections in this moment will take time.
If you’re looking for ways to create and manage a healthy relationship with your teen, we have some helpful tips that we’re sure will help you build a close bond in no time. But remember, when all else fails, be patient, open, and real, and you’ll find that parenting a teenager isn’t so scary after all.
Talk Less and Listen More
As parents we often we know best, so when it comes to conversations or disagreements with our teens we tend to talk over them instead of listen to them. But just like adults, teens want to be listened to with respect. Try to be a safe person for your child to talk to, even when you don’t accept or agree with everything. Let them speak openly (without interrupting), allowing them a chance to hear their own ideas played out loud. It also provides a window into their problem-solving strengths and limitations. You can use that to help them.
Keep it 100
One bad habit we have as parents is forgetting that at one point, we were teenagers too. We forget that at one point we too were at a stage in life where we were discovering the world and pushing the boundaries. Instead of judging your child, use situations that arise as a chance to put yourself in their shoes. Use your own experiences to help guide them through experiences and provide real world advice. Offer the same words of comfort that you needed as a teenager to your child now. It will make all the difference to them as they grow.
Keep Their Secrets – But Remember You’re Still the Parent
Attention, attention, if your teen confides something in you – keep it to yourself. You might think it’s so cute that they have a crush or started their period, etc, but when you gush about it on the phone to your sister or your best friend, it will sound like you’re making light of something that is likely very serious to them. The last thing you want your child to feel is humiliated and like their life is a source of entertainment. You want them to know that above all else they can trust you. Now this doesn’t mean that if they say something you don’t approve of or that you know is dangerous, you shouldn’t speak up. Your job is to prepare your child to become an independent, fully functioning adult and that’s way more important than being you’re their friend. They don’t need your friendship, anyway, they need your moral leadership.
Remember how it felt when you wanted to do something as simple as close your bedroom door and your parents always busted in all angry to tell you that you had no right to? Remember how that made you feel? Now that you’re the parent you can understand how challenging it can be to grant teens increasingly more privacy and autonomy. But you also know how it feels to not have your boundaries respected simply because you’re not a certain age. In order to develop good judgment, teens need lots of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them.
Don’t Just Criticize
No one likes to feel as if the only time they are noticed is when they are doing something wrong and getting in trouble. Teens already struggle with self-confidence, and when they aren’t being hard on themselves, their friends may be adding to the pity party. You definitely don’t want your voice to be part of the negativity (you’re the safe place, remember?). Look for opportunities to praise your teen for the things they are doing right. Your praise shows you notice more than their faults. It will also increase their feelings of competency.
Almost every parent will agree, teens are a moody, grumpy, sometimey group of humans. More times than not at this stage in life it may feel as if they are pushing you away, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They would actually love some one-on-one time with you—just on their terms. Make the effort to learn about their interests and hobbies, then suggest trying one of them out together and let your teen decide what to do. If they feel like you are interested in spending time with them doing something they like, they are more likely to take you up on your offer instead of locking themselves in their room.