Perhaps the only thing harder than being a teenager is being a parent to one. The highs of being a parent can be joyful: watching them develop, become their own person and start to achieve their own life goals. But on the flip side the lows can be intensely challenging: arguments, rebellion, bad behaviour and raging hormones.
Relationships between parents and their teenage children can often be best described as ‘strained’. This is not healthy for mum/dad or their son/daughter, not to mention the impact on siblings and extended family.
Take a step back and consider these practical tools and techniques.
Show interest in their life as a friend would
This may seem pretty obvious but in practice it is challenging. Everyone can ask: what are you doing at the weekend? The critical part is doing it like a friend and not in a way that makes them assume you are being nosey and controlling.
Be interested in their life and their culture for the sake of it, not to check up on what they are doing. Find out who their friends are and what bonds them together. Not because you think they are running with the wrong crowd but because you are genuinely interested. Ask them what (or who) they are passionate about, respecting that as they move towards adulthood, their opinions are valuable and your relationship with them will change.
Listen to their point of view
Listen to your teenager’s point of view and actually listen. Try not to go through the motions and wait until it is time to tell them what their point of view should be.
As a child their perspective and opinion was largely, if not entirely, shaped by you as their parent. Adolescence challenges that status quo – the parent’s influence begins to diminish, whilst the child’s grows.
Try to understand where they are coming from. Remember your own teenage struggles. Put yourself in their shoes and do your best to appreciate how important the issue might be to them. Especially if your first reaction is that it is not a big deal (remember what it was like getting dumped by your first girlfriend/boyfriend).
Offer your perspective as a suggestion, not an instruction. Focus on helping find a solution and accept it might not be exactly what you want it to be.
Establish firm-but-fair rules and boundaries
Stick to firm-but-fair rules and boundaries. What’s your position about key areas where tensions often flare including:
• going out and coming in: curfews, keeping you informed, rules on inviting friends over
• household chores: tasks that are required in exchange for greater freedoms for example
• attitudes towards others: behaviour with siblings and family, observing family meal times
• use of technology: time spent online, use of social media, phone bills.
It is important that you and your partner are in agreement in all these areas. Ensure you are both united in your position when it comes to laying down the rules and, most importantly, enforcing them.
Be careful not to damage your teen’s self-esteem
Watch how you talk. Self-esteem is especially fragile during the teenage years. Teasing, blaming, and name-calling can destroy it. When there’s conflict, stick to the issues – don’t attack your teenager.
When other problems are discussed aim to be an encourager, a builder, and a supporter. Being proactive in this regard will help build and maintain trust between you and your teenager. This is particularly important to ensure they feel comfortable enough to talk to you about serious issues like bullying, peer pressure, sexuality and relationships.
Feeling like you need more help parenting your teenager?
The Spark counsellors are specialists in relationship counselling for couples, parents and families. Couple counselling can help parents understand and tackle the challenges of bringing up children. Family counselling allows all members of the family group to work together to understand difficulties in relationships and solutions.
To find out more or book an appointment freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete an online enquiry form.