Welcome to adolescence! For a teen, it’s a time of confusion, rapid growth, sexual maturation, and an ever increasing need for independence. For a parent, it’s a time of new issues such as dating, curfew and driving. Parents may feel they are in uncharted waters at this time. But, despite what they may sometimes say, teens still need the same consistent and loving parenting they have previously been afforded. Unfortunately, communication during this time can decrease dramatically. Is there a way to keep the door open during the teen years? Simply put, yes. And it’s the stuff great relationships are built on.
Here are some strategies for maintaining a healthy relationship with your teen and keeping the door of communication open during this time:
Stay calm: Resist the urge to judge or immediately react. When your parent “alarm” goes off, it is best to take a deep breath before responding. This is critical in keeping open the lines of communication with your teen. If the information requires action, take time to regroup.
Be a good listener: Use your reflective listening skills to acknowledge your teen’s feelings and show that you are emotionally available. Sometimes teens exaggerate or express fleeting feelings. A good listener is a good sounding board and there is a difference between giving advice and listening.
Avoid the lecture: Teens are still not yet thinking abstractly due to the nature of their developing brains. And, teens who are upset will not absorb information or lessons delivered abstractly. We have all seen the disengaged look that comes over the face of our child when we are presenting vital information in a lecture format.
Set clear and enforceable rules: While they won’t admit it, teens find security in structure. When setting and enforcing a rule, explain it in twenty five words or less. The consequences should be clear, reasonable, and enforceable.
Know the difference between the small stuff and the big stuff: Is that haircut or outfit worth fighting over? Teens need the autonomy to make mistakes and explore new possibilities. On the other hand, parents should be aware that a drastic change in grades, behavior, or friends could be indicative of a potential problem.
Adolescence is a trying time for both children and their parents. Check in with other parents to learn if you are the “only mom” with a particular rule and take the time to connect with other parents of teens. Parenting a teenager is a challenge to be sure. But, if you keep the door open, the opportunity to connect with your soon to be young adult is priceless.