‘I am Ok – You are Ok’
– Eric Berne
The teenage years are critical for molding character. The habits and behaviors picked up during adolescent years can significantly affect their personality as an adult. Teenage years also happen to be a challenging and confusing time for both parents and teens.
Parenting teens is hard work.
When teenagers start developing their identity different from their parents, there is a likelihood of escalated conflicts in the family. Disputes can be for various reasons, like the difference in the belief system, differences in opinions, personal appearance, choice of partners, religious beliefs, internet and phone usage, studies, changes in the family dynamics, poor communication among family members, and so much more.
Teenage years can be a source of frustration and anger for the parents as well as the adolescent. Many times these clashes can be responsible for weakening the bond between parents and their adolescents. However, it is essential to accept that your teenager is simply trying to find themselves.
Although adolescents becoming increasingly independent is developmentally normal, investing your energy in maintaining a good relationship with them is essential. Things do not have to be complicated, and there are several ways to keep the relationship healthy.
Below are some tips to help make parenting your teen a better experience.
1. Conflicts, arguments and disagreements are normal
We all experience conflict. Disagreements can be with others or ourselves (inner conversations). Conflicts are bound to happen in a family setting. Every human has an intrinsic need to have their opinions and voice heard. We all want to feel important, especially in the family setting.
The need to be heard and have an identity of their own is usually the trigger for teenagers’ arguments and clashes with parents.
I come across parents who experience extreme anxiety and stress due to conflicts. It may be appropriate to let your apprehensions stay, but at the same time, make an effort to look from your teenager’s viewpoints.
2. Understand the reasons for conflicts
Have you heard of the statement – ‘I am OK-You are Ok’?
This statement fundamentally talks about respect for yourself and respect for others. As a parent, do you believe it is your fundamental right to dictate all rules to your teenager? Like I mentioned above, teenagers are developing their own identity, and most of them can be rebellious to opinions that are not in their favor.
Instead of pushing your viewpoints, it’s essential to respect your adolescent’s thinking and opinions.
- Give their reasoning a listening ear.
- Maintain open communication channels with them.
3. Listen to their feelings
Try to understand their feelings and articulate them. Let your teenager hear you verbalize their feelings. And it’s okay to get it wrong from time to time.
Parent: You seem to be angry with your professor
Teenager: I am not angry. I am livid.
Parent: mmm..you are livid. Tell me more about what’s making you livid.
Try this small exercise. Adolescents appreciate being understood.
As a parent, adolescence is a stage we have all experienced, and do you remember your needs to be understood? We journey through our teenage years with many questions about our identity, beliefs, likes, and dislikes.
Making an effort to understand your teenager’s feelings gives them a sense of comfort and a safe outlet. Often, you will discover you can relate to their situation and frustrations. You may be pleasantly surprised when they are willing to listen to your opinions and advice.
4. Listen attentively
Experts say 70% to 93% of all communication is non-verbal.
Ensure to be attentive to what your teen says. Teenagers communicate not only by words, but primarily through their actions and body language.
Please pay close attention, therefore, to both their verbal and non-verbal communication. As a parent, listen to your own body language, tone and facial expressions.
Parent (verbal): Yes, I am okay with what you are saying.
Parent (facial expression): angry
Parent (tone) : upset
In the above example, there is no congruence between what is spoken and what is communicated non-verbally. Your teenagers observe and retain non-verbal communication.
5. Use Your Personal Experiences
Adolescence is a unique stage where teenagers are trying to understand and discover their world and society. They may develop a rebellious streak and get in trouble with the authorities while at it.
Don’t be quick to judge them.
Take time to put yourself in their shoes and think about your experience as a teenager and what helped you cope with that phase. Use these experiences to relate to them and offer words of advice and comfort. It also helps eliminate the authoritative nature of most parent-teen relationships.
6. Stay Calm
When your teen acts up and behaves rudely towards you, frustrations and anger can easily control you. Feelings of anger are normal. It’s okay to have the emotions you are having.
Be aware of what is your coping strategy that will work in this situation. Will shouting matches and threats help, or will they aggravate the situation? If you are angry or frustrated, will it impact the bond with your teenager?
It may be a good idea to take time off. You may want to let your teenager know that you are angry and upset. You need to be in your own space to calm down and have an open conversation with them.
Acknowledging the anger and taking time off to calm down teaches them to mirror you and learn healthy ways to cope with their feelings.
Being the adult, take a step back and figure out what they might be trying to communicate with the outbursts. For example, they could have an issue they could not express clearly and have been bottling up.
Think of ways to have them communicate the issue more effectively and settle it amicably. If you are unable to keep your composure, continue the conversation once you calm down. Problems do not get resolved when stressed and at the height of emotions. Take a break until you can have a rational discussion.
7. Express Interest In Their Interests
Teenagers back into their shell if they sense a negative judgment about their interests. They may lock you out of their daily living.
As a teen parent, expressing an interest in what your child is doing is critical in having a smooth parenting experience. It gives you an insight into your child’s likes and interests, making them feel you care about them.
They are likely to get more comfortable talking about their day’s experience, creating more opportunities for you to hold meaningful conversations. These conversations keep you in touch with them and what is going on in their life, details that might otherwise not be easy to get.
8. Create little traditions to connect
Another tip to help you parent your teenager better is creating traditions for you to bond more. It could be fun things that you can enjoy together, for example, going out together for a drive every Sunday evening or going to nail appointments with your daughter.
Whatever works with your child, make it happen regularly. It helps you spend more time with your teenager, and they will eventually start looking forward to these moments of connection.
I remember as a teenager, our nightly ritual was to play cards. I have continued this ritual with my children (now young adults and still play when we are together).
9. Know Their Friends
Being actively involved in your teenager’s social life is a good step towards cultivating a healthy relationship. Take time to learn more about the friends your child interacts with during their free time. Please understand this is not the same as snooping in their lives.
Showing interest in their friends will allow your teen to communicate more about their social life. Most importantly, it helps you know if your child is mixing with the right type of people, giving you greater peace of mind when your teen is out with them.
As a parent, I gave permissions to my children to invite their friends home over lunch or dinner. It was fun for all of us to have a good social time, including playing board games.
10. Have fun together
Find ways that you and your teen can enjoy each other’s company away from the usual home setting. You may have to pay attention to what they think is fun and join them as they may not necessarily find your ideas fun.
Remember, when it comes to spending time with your teen, quality supersedes quantity. You don’t have to have fun every weekend, but be sure to set time aside to unwind and try something fun. Try new fun activities together, for example, fishing or challenging each other at a video game once in a while.
Your child will surely treasure and appreciate such fun moments together, and they are more likely to want to talk to you about whatever is going on with them.
11. Avoid comparison
From my personal experience, growing up constantly compared to my siblings or extended family dented my self-esteem. It has taken me a long journey and therapy to process and come out of the belief, ‘I am not good enough’.
As parents, we want the best for our children. However, sometimes we end up unconsciously doing more harm than good. Comparison can be a self-esteem deflator.
Avoid comparing your child to their friends, cousins, or siblings at all costs. It frustrates and alienates them.
Your teen wants to feel like an individual with unique and special qualities that you love and appreciate, regardless of how good another child may seem to you. Remember, every child is different and has impressive talent and abilities to discover and nurture.
12. Capitalize on technology
Technology has given teenagers access to far more information than you had growing up. Therefore, it is essential as a parent to keep up with the changing times to understand the dynamics of your child’s teen life.
Learn to use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that play an integral role in teens’ lives. These platforms will help you keep in touch and update you about your adolescents’ likes, dislikes, beliefs, friends and opinions.
Reaching out to them in the language they are used to, like liking their posts, will demystify the “up-tight” parent notion and help build bridges between the teen and yourself.
13. Have Dinner Together
Cultivate the culture of having dinner together, electronics aside, as a family as often as possible. It creates an excellent opportunity to talk about the day, unwind, and bond. They are your best chance of keeping in touch with the teen’s life and establishing the challenges they face.
References for Parenting Teens
- Parenting Teenagers: Discipline, Communication, and More (webmd.com)
- Positive parenting tips teens 15-17 (cdc.gov)
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