Delighted to post today’s article from author Amy Petrou from Generation Mindful, an organization that supports families with toys and tools for building emotional intelligence, discussing some of the developmental themes of the teenage years and how parents and teens can work together through it all.
As children enter their teen years, they need to adapt in several ways. So too do their parents. Teenagers assert their independence since it is an important part of their journey to adulthood but they still need their parents to play an active role in their lives.
One of the biggest changes in the parent-child relationship is the amount of time your teen will want to spend with you. While they may have seemed quite attached to you before, as they grow older, they will want to spend more time with their friends. Even when they are at home, they may want to listen to music or hang out in their rooms alone.
It doesn’t mean they love you less, but they are naturally more inclined to operate on their own terms and they want more freedom. They’ll also learn to form their own opinions, make their own decisions, and take on more responsibility. While you may have less time with your teen, there are several ways to make that time enjoyable and meaningful. Taking a positive approach to parenting during this period can be very effective in growing a trusting and connected relationship.
Making the Most of Time with Your Teen
Sure, you want your child to see you as a parent and not a best friend but you still want them to know you’re fun and interesting. Talk to them about activities you find exciting or share fun parts of your day with them. Make an effort to do things together even if you don’t have common interests. Watching a game with them if they’re into sports or letting them teach you to play their favorite video game could bring you closer.
At the same time, give your teenager space when they need it. They may not always be in the mood to talk or spend time with you. Instead of taking this personally, allow them to have time alone or spend time with their friends. Remember, they need their privacy just as much as you do.
Helping Your Teen Develop a Positive Self-Identity
Teenagers have a lot to figure out including their very self-identity. Their self-image is often closely tied to the feedback they get from their peers. Therefore, they’ll want to hear about how cool they are from their friends. However, they also value your opinion so make the effort to notice when they act responsibly or with kindness. The way they think and feel about themselves impacts their behavior. Help them develop positive self-identity by:
- Paying them genuine compliments. Show them that you notice more than their appearance by focusing on their wise choices, their creativity or their ability to act as a good friend. Recognizing your teen’s positive qualities encourages them to continue acting in similar ways.
- Respecting their concerns.
- Emphasizing the learning process they are involved in and showing them they can learn anything with time and effort. This lets them know they choose how to define themselves.
- Paying close attention to who their friends are and which activities they’re involved in to offer support.
- Attending their school events.
- Encouraging them to explore new interests and activities.
Finding Ways to Communicate Effectively
When your child was younger, they may have been eager to tell you about every little part of their day. It may have been easy to get them to talk about their feelings while playing games. As they become teenagers, they are likely to be less open, not because they are hiding something but because they value their privacy and independence. You may need to change the way you communicate with them if you want to have effective conversations.
It is a good idea to practice active listening. Give your teen your full attention when they’re speaking and focus on the feelings they express. Repeat the key points back to them. Saying something like “I get the impression that this made you sad” helps you avoid misunderstandings. It also helps the teenager to identify and handle their emotions. Respect their opinion even if you don’t agree with their point of view.
To create opportunities for communication, you’ll need to be flexible. Scheduling quality time is important since it gives your child the assurance that you are available. Taking any available opportunity to catch up with them also allows for meaningful interaction and building trust.
Teaching Teens Responsible Decision-Making
By the time your child enters their teenage years, they will already have some values which they learned from their family, friends, and teachers. However, part of adolescence is about learning to make smart decisions based on personal values. Your child will be faced with choices that test and refine their morals and values. Your teen has a mind of their own, but they still look to you for guidance, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
If you want them to have sound values, you must model the right behaviors. Think about the example you’re setting regarding things like respect for others, honesty, perseverance, and health. In addition, reflecting on ethical dilemmas and leaving questions open-ended offers your teen valuable practice in thinking through actions and consequences. They get an opportunity to practice applying those values to real-life problems they might face.
Teaching Teens About Choices and Logical Consequences
Establishing and following through on rules and boundaries is about striking a balance. Your child needs to make more decisions on their own but if you’re overly permissive, they may make unwise decisions. They often don’t understand how their actions could have lifelong consequences. If you’re wondering about the best way to teach self-discipline, consider the following:
Make the Rules Clear
If your teen knows the rules, they can be held accountable when they break them. Consider getting input from them on rules regarding curfew or having friends over since this can help make them more responsible. It is a good idea to post the rules in an area where they can easily see them.
Listen to Your Child’s Reasoning
As an adult, you know that there are sometimes valid reasons for breaking the rules. Find out why your teenager deviated from what you agreed on instead of acting right away. Maybe their extra-curricular activity really did run late, or they had good reasons for missing the bus. Also, learn about rules together so that you can co-create them with information to back them up. For example, collaboratively researching the science-backed sleep requirements for your teen’s age can help you to agree on a bedtime or curfew.
Ensure the Consequences Match the Action
If your teenager goes to a party even though you told them not to, grounding them may be an appropriate response. However, if they didn’t study for a test and they got a poor grade, that’s a natural consequence. No additional parent consequences are needed but reflecting on it together can help a teen think through what happened and how they might make changes the next time.
How can they repair the damage that they’ve caused whether it’s a broken chair or a broken friendship? Ask them for ideas on how they can mend the relationship and then, support them in following through. This teaches them how to take responsibility for their actions and it takes bravery. Your guidance and support through this process can go a long way in showing them how to make up for their poor choices.
Let the Small Things Go
If your child’s action or belief doesn’t hurt them or anyone else, don’t focus on it too much. If they wear their hair in a way you don’t like, as long as it is not inappropriate for school or another setting, avoid fussing about it. Focus on the bigger issues which really affect their growth and development.
To Sum Up
Guiding your child through their teenage years requires different strategies than those which worked during pre-adolescence. You will need to maintain a balance between learning about, co-creating, and upholding rules and letting your child make their own decisions. Even if it seems like they don’t need you anymore, they do. Use the positive parenting tips outlined here to help you parent more effectively.
Amy Petrou is a content advocate at GenMindful.com, and a mother of two. In her free time you will find her writing on her blog, reading and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection.
Generation Mindful creates a tools and toys that nurture emotional intelligence of our new generation. Our goal is to serve as an inspiration for our community to embrace positive discipline mindfully and playfully.
Here’s one of their terrific family games to enjoy time together while building your children’s emotional vocabulary: