By Amy Kostak, CFLE-P.
The teenage years are crucial to a person’s healthy development, but they can be daunting to parents. While teens are seeking more independence, parents are grasping for connection. This disconnect can result in a lot of frustration. Luckily, we have some strategies that parents can use to improve their relationships with their teens.
Put aside the lectures and listen to what your teen has to say. Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and newfound autonomy. Giving your teen the ability to express his thoughts will help him develop successfully. Plus, it will strengthen your connection and make him more likely to confide in you again.
- Pick Your Battles
Decide which desired behaviors are most important to you. Is it the end of the world if he doesn’t make his bed every day? Or do you care more about knowing where he’s going after school? With your teen, establish a few concrete rules, and be clear about the consequences. Allowing teens to contribute to the rule-establishing process will help them see your point of view, make them more likely to accept consequences, and reduce the amount of nagging you do.
- Don’t Take It Personally
If it seems like she just wants to fight for the sake of fighting, that may be the case. Teens see conflict as a form of self-expression. When inevitable conflict arises, don’t let it get to you. Take a deep breath and keep your cool. Easier said than done, we know. But in the moments when you stay calm, you are actually teaching the behavior you would like to see. If you escalate, they will too and nothing will get resolved.
- Create a “Safe Zone” for Asking Questions
Right now, decide what your stances are on sex, drugs, and alcohol and determine how much you are willing to tell about your own experiences. When you talk to your teen, calmly tell them what you believe and invite them to ask questions. You want them to feel comfortable talking to you, so do not force them to share more than they are willing to. And remember, the longer you wait to talk about these big issues, the more awkward it will be. If you bring these topics up in age-appropriate ways when your children are young, they will be more likely to confide in you later.
- Remember, they still need you!
Don’t be discouraged if your teen seems to like his peers or other adults more than you. Teens often value their parents’ opinions more than anyone else’s. Believe it or not, they desire your approval and want a positive relationship with you!