Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Parenting Teenagers

A big topic of discussion among parents of adolescents is how to talk to teenagers. Raising teenagers can feel like a daunting task, at times. Parents often experience periods of frustration, exhaustion, and bewilderment as well as a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, confusion, and failure.

Communicating with your teenager does not have feel so exacerbating if you can keep these few basic things in mind:

  • Adolescence is a normal period of development. In may ways, teens are like toddlers - they are in search of new things and beginning to discover themselves. So much is happening developmentally, socially, and physically that it can be emotionally overwhelming and reactions and behaviors do not always make sense.
  • Take an interest in what your teen is doing. Even if your teen seems to be in his/her own world or is terse when responding to questions, it is important to try and stay connected by expressing genuine interest in what he/she is doing, likes, and dislikes without bombarding him/her with questions. Though they may not admit it, teens feel important and their sense of self further solidifies when the people that are important to them acknowledge and support their interests.
  • Allow your teen some space. Teens need opportunities to discover themselves. Whether it is through music, sports, fashion, or art, they need some room to try on different characteristics without fear of judgment or ridicule.
  • Model mutual respect. If your teen sees you handling difficult interactions in a calm, respectful manner, including disagreements with him/her, he/she feels respected and has a model for future interactions.
  • Maintain consistency and boundaries. Teens are still children and need rules, boundaries, and consistency. It is these things that help children feel safe, protected, and valued. You may no longer be able to sit your child on your lap to calm him/her but there can be realistic consequences for negative behaviors and reflective conversation about the reasons for the behavior. Though they may fight it, teens truly want and need this kind of ongoing support.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure your teen knows you are always willing to talk and will be there for him/her whenever needed. Though he/she may not directly take you up on the offer, knowing it is there is what is most important.
  • Know that your teen still loves you and this too shall pass. It is in no one's best interest to alienate others. Teens are smart; they are not purposefully trying to create drama. Remind yourself that there is meaning behind the madness and trust that your relationship with your teen will carry him/her and you through this developmental period.

These are just a few things to think about when it comes to talking with teens. Yes, sometimes they are easier said then done, but maintaining a healthy relationship with your teen is vital to his/her identity formation and growth into young adulthood.