Parenting teenagers is particularly difficult. It’s a significant time of transition for you and your child, as their bodies and minds develop, and your role as their parent shifts from guiding a child to supporting an adolescent. There’s no manual, and often our own experience as a teenager didn’t provide the mentorship for wisdom in this area of parenting. Add to that a lot of contradictory advice; it becomes extremely difficult to know how we can do better for our children, now they’ve hit the teenage years.
The Importance of Communication
Even though your kids may be growing taller than you, or developed strong opinions that conflict with your own; you want them to know you still love and support them. It would be great if you could get some tips on how to do this while maintaining mutual respect and understanding. To journey through the teenage years with as little conflict and as much trust as possible. That despite all the changes, you come out the other side with a strong bond and a relationship that looks just as filled with affection as it has always been. It requires excellent communication, and we have some brilliant tips to get you there:
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Good communication isn’t just about the things you say, some of the most effective communications happen when you say nothing at all. Focus on being present around your teenagers. It will take some practice, but by really listening to whatever your teen has to say - you’ll show them you care about what's on their mind. What they choose to chat about may not seem important or interesting to you, but listen carefully anyway.
We know it’s not always easy, especially when your own mind is whizzing and you’re multitasking the items on your to-do list, but this seemingly insignificant action makes a world of difference. When your teen feels they can talk to you about the small things, they’re more likely to open up to you about the bigger issues.
Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes and understand their point of view, without trying to fix everything. Sometimes kids just want to vent. When you minimise their concerns in an effort to make them feel better, they feel like they’re being dismissed and that you don’t understand. Instead, listen, empathise and validate their feelings with acknowledgement like, ‘That must be really upsetting’. Your teen will come away from their conversation with you feeling like they’ve been heard. It’s likely they’ll be far more open to discussing their thoughts with you in the future.
Words That Count
Your teen probably acts like they don’t care what you think or say, but they do. Your big kid still needs your appreciation and acknowledgement. Continue to praise them like you did when they were small children, accomplishing things for the first time.
Navigating the world as a teenager is incredibly difficult; any positive encouragement or affirmation you give will go a long way to build a strong bond between you. Positive interactions between you will also really help to buffer any antagonistic conversations that occur as you travel through this new chapter in your relationship.
You can’t expect your teen to appreciate your perspective at the best of times, but if you tend to dictate to your adolescent rather than talk to them on a level, they will switch off completely. Try to collaborate with your teen, even when you want to get your point across or enforce a boundary.
Explain your reasons in a calm and measured way, and ask your teen for their input on what they think would be a fair limit too. Work together to find safe structures that allow both your needs to be met where possible. This will encourage your child to feel like you're on the same team, rather than an enemy.
There will be many times that you’ll need to say sorry. It can be very difficult as a parent to admit mistakes, but when you apologise to your child - no matter their age, you model how to put right a wrong and build mutual respect.
Your teen will put up walls if you fail to put aside your ego and admit where you’ve gone wrong. If instead you apologise without excuse, you’ll show them you really care about them. If you can be prepared to expose your humanity behind your role as their parent, you’ll likely cement a closer relationship and better communication.
Great Communication Starts With You
No matter the age of your child, you remain one of the most important people in their lives. As your young child grows into their teenage years, they will need your love, encouragement and the security of your relationship more than ever. It’s a tumultuous time for them as they navigate friendships, accept their personal development and encounter the ups and downs of hormones.
You are their safe place to break against. Provide them with a trusting space to share who they are. With great communication, together you can continue to build a relationship that’s built on honesty, openness, safety and respect.
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