We talk a lot about how to raise our children, from birth through to the toddler years and onward, but we don’t often focus on how to deal with our teens. Parenting teenagers is often difficult as they begin their journey towards being an adult and you may wonder where your ‘easy-to-bring-up’ child has gone as they become moody, defiant and reluctant to communicate with you.
The thing to remember is that their brains ARE acting differently to normal. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed, and won’t reach full maturity until around the age of 25. It’s all to do with the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and makes them unable to act as an adult would in certain situations.
We can all remember what it was like to be a teenager ourselves, when our bodies were changing and our hormones were raging. So what is the best way to raise teenagers in a world full of chaos and uncertainty?
Knowing how to talk to teenagers can go a long way to building an open path of communication. Listen to what they have to say without judging them. Hear them, don’t lecture them. Active listening is a technique that is often used in counselling, during training sessions and when solving disputes or conflicts, and unlike passive listening you can validate your teen’s feelings by providing feedback when appropriate.
As they start becoming independent it can be difficult to know how to keep them safe without impeding on their independence or privacy. One way you can find out about what is happening in their life is to build up a trusting relationship. Understanding their point of view and listening to their perspective on life can go a long way to building trust.
Find something that you share an interest in and develop a conversation surrounding it. You can have differing points of view, but respecting each other is important and can lead to some lively debates. If you can’t find anything that you both share an interest in, try to learn about what it is they are passionate about. Have fun together; go to the cinema or out for a pizza, or just watch something on the TV that you know you will both enjoy.
Many teenagers suffer with low self-esteem issues which can make them extremely vulnerable. Having a supportive parent or family can go a long way to building their confidence and helping them to regain their self-esteem. Be positive and sincere with your praise and encourage their individual talents, whether that is academic, in the field of sports or the arts.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
You may not like the way your teen is dressing or the style in which they are doing their hair. It’s good for them to make their own choices and they are not looking for your approval. The only thing that matters to them is how their peers see them and as long as they are not dressing inappropriately for their age, then try and bite your tongue and check back in with your teenage self to remember how you were experimenting with life.
Set Realistic Boundaries
Boundaries can help you and your teen know what behaviour is ok and what’s not and can help you to feel more in control of their behaviour. In one way boundaries are about letting your child know that you will always care about them, even when you are not together. A set of realistic boundaries can make them feel safe and supported and help them to make informed decisions. One good tip is to talk to your teenagers when they are in a calm and reasonable mood and not when tempers are running high. Ask them what they think is reasonable when you are creating boundaries and leave yourself some room to negotiate.
Do you have concerns about your teenager’s social media use? This can often be an area of conflict, especially as nowadays social media can impact on their mental health, so the best thing you can do is to be aware of the risks and put strategies into place where possible to limit the effects of cyberbullying. Family discussions about their internet presence and social media use can result in less risky online behaviour.
Don’t approach parenting your teenager as a chore. Yes, they will test your patience and your limits, but remember that they are still developing both in mind and body. Negative expectations can actually promote the behaviour you fear most so make sure you spend some quality time together and learn to respect their choices and opinions if possible. Above all, enjoy them and let them find their wings and fly!