Adolescence can be tumultuous. Your teen is undergoing many changes, from the physical transformation of puberty to an onslaught of social pressures. In the meantime you’re facing new parenting challenges and learning to balance your child’s growing desire for independence with their continued need for guidance. When you combine this developmental push-pull with the moodiness that typifies adolescence, conflict is inevitable!
Whatever you do, Don’t give up! By keeping a couple of key principles in mind you can parent your teen positively, molding them into a good citizen without breaking their spirit or driving them away.
Communication Is Key
Your maturing child is likely spending more time with friends and demonstrating a greater craving for privacy. Many of their waking hours may also be dominated by school and extracurricular activities. You may have less time together, but it’s crucial that you keep communicating with your teen. Take advantage of shared moments like meals and car rides, and make plans for longer conversations. Ask your teen about school and their friends, activities and interests. When you listen during lighter moments, it’s easier to broach tough subjects.
Some parents shun hot-button issues to avoid discomfort, sidestepping topics like
- alcohol use
- drug abuse
- sexual relationships
- sexual assault
- depression, anger and anxiety
- suicidal thoughts
- eating disorders
Other parents fear that discussion equals encouragement. For instance, someone might avoid asking their son who’s showing signs of depression if he’s had suicidal thoughts because they don’t want to plant the idea in his head. But completed suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens, and you don’t have the luxury of avoiding the topic.
Listen And Learn
Your teen will face complex issues whether you discuss them or not, so bring up those tricky subjects. Opportunities to talk about problems often present themselves. Your teen’s school may host an event on suicide prevention or drug abuse, or a news story may spur a healthy discussion.
Ask your child whether their peers are using drugs and alcohol, and take time to learn about their own attitude toward substance use. It’s important to answer their questions honestly, because teens are famously sensitive to inauthenticity. You should also provide your young adult with contingency plans as well as orders.
You can tell your child not to drink or hang out with friends who do, but keep in mind car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. Let your adolescent know that if they do ever drink they can call you for a ride, and they should do the same rather than getting in the car with a driver who’s under the influence.
Affirm Your Teen
Many of us spend a lot of time correcting our teen’s behavior and working to adjust their attitude. Too much criticism, however, can leave a kid feeling like you don’t like them or as if everything they do is wrong. It can erode their confidence and cause them to pull away or act out.
If you feel like you’re spending too much time chastising your teen, you can mitigate this unhealthy pattern with an important commodity: positive affirmation.
Make a point of acknowledging your child’s material achievements, like getting good grades or completing their chores. Also take time to acknowledge their positive attributes, like being funny or showing kindness.
The late author and self-development coach Dr. Wayne Dyer had a key message: Each of us is a human being, not a human doing. He had some clear advice: “Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life.”
You may want to occasionally reward your child, perhaps celebrating a milestone by going out for ice cream. Oftentimes, however, all you need is to give your teen the praise they crave.
Tell them “you done good.” It will reinforce their self-worth and remind you how lucky you are to have this blossoming human being in your care.
Tyler Jacobson – Father of three and avid outdoor enthusiast – has been juggling life with kids for around 18 years. He’s learned a thing or two about parenting and has turned from a full time career in digital media to helping fellow parents of teenagers. He pulls from his own life experiences raising spunky, free-spirited children, as well as his work with various organizations that help teens be their best selves. During his free time, Tyler enjoys taking his family into the mountains to connect with a simpler side of life which he finds grounding and rejuvenating.