The further you move away from your own teen years the harder it is to remember how unique a time this was in your life. As a parent you want the best for your teens and understanding how to communicate with them is the first step. Here’s 5 important things for parents to remember when raising teens.
Always be ready to listen
Jessica Cleary is an experienced psychologist and the director of Hopscotch & Harmony Psychology. She understands parents want to swoop in to save the day but says it’s important to know when to just listen.
“Teens want to feel heard but don't necessarily want advice. When they share with you a problem or concern ask "Would you like some advice or just someone to listen?". Often it will be the latter. Validating their experience without judgment will result in your teen confiding in you more often, bringing you closer together. Us parents tend to want to 'fix' things for our kids, but when we provide a listening ear and a space for our teen to talk then they feel understood. Feelings of being understood promotes self-worth, perceived acceptance and enhances the relationship between parent and child.”
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They’re going to change often
Teens are an unstable bunch. They’re discovering who they are and more importantly who they want to be. You can expect them to go through phases with fashions, haircuts and even bedroom decor. But it’s important you let them do it. Putting on each new identity is also them testing which ones are going to stick. It’s not uncommon for teens to act differently around their parents and family as they do their peers. The best thing you can do is allow them the freedom to figure out who they are while also reminding them you are there for them and they can always turn to you for support.
Encourage them to follow their passions
Jean Sheehan is an international speaker, life skills mentor and loving mum. She believes supporting your teens passions will give them a strong sense of self leading into adulthood.
“A teenagers identity is built on learning about themselves from their own individual perspective.
To assist teenagers to build their identity assist and support them to build their own unique gifts. For example, if a teenager acknowledges that they have a gift with IT, English or any other pastime, this will help them build their personal inner sense of self. As a result, they will be more aware of careers, people, situations and pathways in life that suit their identify. It is also important to support teenagers to experiment and create safe boundaries where they know they can trial different situations in life.”
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They’ll run before they can walk
There’s something about youth that makes you feel invincible. From a scientific perspective, it is the continuing development of a teens prefrontal cortex that makes them impulsive and unpredictable. In their minds they are already fully-fledged adults ready to take on the world, but you know better. As a parent you should still be able to stop them from doing anything too risky. As a mentor you should recognise they are maturing and will feel more respected if you explain your decisions to them rather than just saying no.
Treating them like an adult can help teach responsibility. Little changes like upgrading their bed from a single to an adult-feel double will show them you respect their burgeoning maturity.
Call on your prior experiences
Registered psychologist, counsellor and play therapist Jay Anderson from My Child My Family has years of experience counselling kids and adults. Her advice to parents is to build a strong relationship from the beginning for a smooth transition into teenhood.
“The most important thing for any parent and teenager is their relationship, and this has been nurtured and developed over the proceeding 13 years. When parents have a good relationship, have been able to communicate with their child, sharing their values and having good boundaries with their child - then the teen years can be smoother.
Children need good role models and close relationships with their parents, or carers to develop into healthy young adults. When the adults around them can spend time with them, listening, allowing for emotional expression and for them to discover and find out the aspects of their personality. It can be a challenging time and sometimes it can assist to seek further information - attending sessions about families, relationships or even seeking a Counselling professional can be of significant benefit.”
Talking to your teens won’t always be easy. They might be reluctant to open up or be afraid of your judgement. Creating a safe, neutral space for discussion in your home will give you both a place to retreat to for regular catch-ups. Some conversations, like sexual activity or alcohol, are too difficult to have at the family dinner table but you don’t want to miss out on your teens concerns. Take your teen into the spare room or outdoor patio and let them know this will be an open discussion space where they can tell you anything - good or bad.
Why fit in when you were born to stand out!
Catherine Plano is a career, life and leadership coach who often works with teenagers and helps them on the road to adulthood. Here’s what she had to say about teens and their social lives:
“Teenagers moving into adulthood, during the age of 13 to 21 they develop different values. For example from the age of 8 to 13, they go through a modelling period, this is where they copy people, rather than accept who they truly are. They try on other people’s values for size to see how they feel. Quite often the people they model are the people they look up to or admire, which may be a parent, family member, teacher or friend. This is why quite often they want to have the same pair of shoes and the same brand of jeans as their best friend.
Then they move into the socialization period, from the age of 14 to 21, this is where their peers largely influence them. They naturally aggregate towards like-minded people and form groups. As they develop as individuals, they rebel from their earlier programs (family) or core values and turn to people outside of their family who seem more like them. Other influences at this age include media, especially if it is aligned with their peer group values.
At this age they develop relationships and social values, this is why it is important to coach teenagers to be an individual, to help them find their way and to understand what matters to them the most.”
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Just like any other stage of growing up, the teen years are over in a flash. Make the most of them by building strong relationships and healthy communication with your kids.