12 Jan 7 Keys to Parenting Teens
Teens have so much to deal with that is unique to their generation, as well as all of the adolescent stresses that have been with us for a long time. Pressure from school, family and peers; the pain of cyber-bullying; wanting to be popular; having to make major life choices at a young age – all these things can result in significant stress. If stressful events pile up, the result can be depression. A sense of failure – for instance, after not getting the expected A’s on exams – can also bring on depression, as can experiences of grief brought on by the loss of a friendship, say, or a family breakup.
It can be a struggle to support teenagers through times of stress, especially as the teen years are typified by a desire to become independent of parental guidance. However, there are ways to help your teen navigate their own path through the obstacles they face. Here are seven key principles that can help.
- Make home an emotionally safe place. Build a strong family network to support your teen through his or her inevitable disappointments and hurts. Slow the pace of life down so your teen has enough chill-out time: pare back obligations as needed to give them some breathing space. Be supportive and encouraging.
- Talk (and listen) whenever you can. Make the most of times when your teen is happy to share their thoughts and views. Listen attentively and empathise. Avoid any urge to lecture, nag or argue with your teen. If they are unwilling to talk about their problems, speak to their teacher or the school guidance officer: they might have some helpful advice for you or be able to engage with your teen.
- Nurture a positive self-view. Help your teen remember ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past and then help them understand that these past challenges help build resilience. Teach your teen to see the humour in life, and encourage their ability to laugh at themselves.
- Keep things in perspective and maintain a positive outlook. Even when your teen is dealing with painful events, help her look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Help your teen see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good. An optimistic and positive outlook enables your teen to see the good things in life and keep going even in the tough times.
- Focus on solutions. If your teen is struggling with a problem, coach them to solve it themselves rather than trying to solve it for them. Encourage your teen to brainstorm solutions. You can kick off the brainstorming if necessary, but don’t do all the work. Your teen’s active participation will build confidence. Support the good ideas and add to them as needed. Parents can’t solve every problem their teen experiences, but they can teach them healthy coping strategies so they can manage stress in the future.
- Establish routines, house rules and expectations. Ensure your teen knows what’s expected in terms of jobs around the house, screen or mobile phone usage, and rules or boundaries of behaviour. Ensure they have a balance between school work, sport, friends, family time, household duties, fun and relaxation. Make sure they get adequate sleep and maintain good nutrition.
- Take care of yourself as a parent. Ensure your own needs for intimacy, time alone, friendships and recreation are being met. Your teen does not have to dominate your life.
Some degree of moodiness is typical during the teen years, but if your teen’s behaviour suddenly changes or they seem very down for a long period of time without improving, you should seek professional assistance.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to maintain a warm and caring relationship with your teen. They may think they don’t need you, but their connection with you is important.
The seven keys here are all about keeping the doors open, so your teen feels able to talk to you without having the sense of dependence that they had as a child. If they know you will respect their views and listen without judging, you’ll find that you are able to have the conversations that you both need.