Strategies to Help Your Teenager
As parents, we try our hardest to love and care for our children - but that can become difficult at certain ages. So when the teenage years emerge, it’s really unsettling when this human you deeply care for seems to become your enemy. During these years of instability, you and your teen speak different languages and it’s your responsibility as a couple to try and decode their language in order to provide them with the support that they need.
As a couple, you can try to:
Acknowledge that they are struggling. The memory of being a teenager might not be as vivid anymore, but if surely you remember that it was tough. Try to have sympathy with your teen and the processes he/she is going through. Being instructive and treating them as a subordinate won’t help them deal with their feelings and might only create a bigger distance between you as the parents and your teenager.
Don’t Expect Adult Behavior. They might be changing into what resembles an adult, but remind yourself that they aren’t adults yet and still need guidance. That means that you cannot expect them to settle arguments or react like an adult when speaking with you, they still have some steps to climb.
Adjust Your Expectations. As your kids move through different phases of their lives you have to adjust your expectations of them. Being open about the changes that will take place will simplify the process and give you the opportunity to see things as they are and not according to your initial expectations.
Don’t Take it Personally. During these years of turmoil, you can do yourself a favor and learn to not take their actions and words personally. It might be directed at you, but there are many reasons and things going on in their minds. Try to stay consistent by not bickering back. Talk less and listen more.
Respect their Boundaries. This is the time where you as parents need to learn when to back off. Your teen will want to have more independence, and you need to respect their boundaries and need for privacy in order for both parties to survive this stage.
Reflect Emotions. In these years as teenagers are gaining independence, it’s important that rather than give advice at every turn, that you honor their opinion and perspective and reflect their thoughts and feelings as this empowers them to move towards adulthood.
Ask Open Ended Questions. Rather than asking questions that have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, allow for them to think deeply with questions that solicit a deeper answers. And, if you get just a shrug or an “I don’t care” just simply reflect that you understand and look forward to hearing their perspective in the future
Seek Professional Help if There’s Continued Conflict. Finding a therapist for your teenager can be extremely beneficial if there’s out of control behaviors like - staying out past curfew, trying alcohol/drugs, or not succeeding academically.
These are just a few go-to tips for dealing with your teenager. Sun Point highly recommends the book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” as it offers wonderful pointers and exercises to reflect emotions rather than giving practical advice. As a couple, it’s important that you are invested in the same strategy. Conflict can increase when you don’t agree with your significant other and he or she sides with your child. This could complicate the relationship even further and make you feel emotional.
Set some time aside to decide how you’ll be dealing with your teenage daughter or son and how you can help each other during blowouts and conflicts. If you need help with these strategies we can discuss more individualized approaches in therapy by scheduling a session at our practice in Lancaster, PA by following this link: www.lauramorse.org/schedule.