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Parenting a Teenager

April 04, 2020

Parenting a Teenager

The teen years are some of the most thrilling and complex for both the adolescent and the parent.  Exciting experiences and transitions coupled with emotions and hormones can make those six to eight years tricky to navigate. Adolescence marks uncharted waters for the teen and possibly a distant memory to the parent.  But for all the good, the bad, and the ugly, the teen years are a rite of passage to adulthood.  To better understand how to parent a teen, it’s essential to consider all that’s happening within one.

The development of teens

During the adolescent years, your teen will grow physically, emotionally, intellectually, and morally.  Teens begin to form and fashion the person they will become in adulthood.  During this process, a power struggle often ensues.  Teenagers will anticipate and earn greater independence from parents and other adults.  As a result, you will see your child begin to separate a bit.  Often, teens will look to their peers as guides and value their opinions over those of adults, specifically their parents.  In an attempt to discover their identity and who they’re becoming, many teens may experiment with how they look and act around others.  Fitting in is often the goal during these years, and parents may experience a lot of stress and worry when they watch their child seemingly become someone else overnight.

 

Signs of a struggling teen

Disagreements are common between teen children and parents.  As your teen pursues independence, he or she is trying to form a code of right and wrong.  This code may or may not be similar to your own values.  While this may seem like an act of rebellion, your child is most likely behaving like the average adolescent.  There are, however, warning signs that can indicate your teen might be struggling:

  • Problems with sleep
  • Extreme weight changes
  • Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
  • Interactions with law enforcement
  • Struggling with school or missing classes
  • Personality changes
  • Changes in friends
  • Mentioning suicide or thoughts of dying

Strategies for parenting a teenager

  1. Discuss- Talk about puberty before it happens. Your teen should know what to expect with the upcoming physical and hormonal changes.  An upcoming physical with your doctor might be a good conversation starter.  Emphasize that everyone develops at his or her own, unique pace.
  2. Empathize- Perhaps the most helpful tool in relating to your teen is empathy. Remember your own teenage years.  Did you fit in or feel awkward about your changing body?  How did you feel about your household’s rules?  Think about the struggles, confusion, and conflict you might have had with your parent(s).  Putting yourself in your growing child’s shoes helps you operate from a place of love instead of frustration.    
  3. Inform- Stock up on some helpful resources to educate yourself about the changes in adolescence. Awareness is a vital ingredient for compassion.  In addition, talk to your teen or pre-teen about the pressures to use alcohol or drugs and to engage in other risky behaviors.  Discussing these pressures beforehand helps teens feel better prepared for navigating adolescence. 
  4. Choose- Think about your child’s behavior. Are they perhaps trying just to shock you by stretching their wings, or is their behavior harmful with big consequences?  Consider their actions and choose your battles wisely. 
  5. Explain- Communicate with your child exactly what your expectations are and what the consequences will be. Having this conversation before a dilemma allows your teen to rise to the responsibility, and it also prevents rash consequences in the anger of the moment.  Be clear and concise but also reasonable and flexible.  Setting up your child for failure with unrealistic rules will not help the situation.   
  6. Limit- The Internet can be dangerous territory for teens. Monitor their online communication and what material they are accessing.  Explain you trust them but also educate about online strangers and the potential hazards.  Limiting technology encourages them to be mindful of their online presence and how they can protect themselves.
  7. Give- Unless you’ve seen warning signs, consider giving your teen some additional privacy. Keep up with his or her life without probing for every single detail.  This communicates trust and helps prepare your teen for adulthood in a safe, healthy, and loving environment. 

While we’ve heard the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it can be hard to allow others to fill a spot we’ve always maintained.  Try to think of the teen years as a training ground for your child’s growth and responsibility.  Encourage your child to find a trusted mentor, responsible adult, or relative they can turn to for advice.  Your child may not want to discuss everything with you, and it’s not something to be taken personally.  If anything, it demonstrates your child is progressing at a natural pace of independence.  Remember, while your child is moving towards adulthood, they will always still be your child, even if they sprout to 6’2”. Keeping a healthy perspective on the potentially turbulent teen years lays the foundation for a lifetime of friendship with your son or daughter.   

 

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Sources:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growing/adolescence.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/parenting-tips-for-teens/art-20044693