As we get to know one another, one of the most popular questions asked is “What do you do?” I love telling people that I am a therapist. I get a variety of responses. I hear anything from “I love therapists!” to a story about someone’s brother to “How can you listen to people all day long?” The truth is I love what I do and am honored to listen to people all day long. When I talk about my passion for teenagers, parents flock to me wanting advice one how to raise teens in an ever changing world. So, here are a few hints.
- Do everything out of love – Parents must be consistent in their love for the children. By offering a supportive and caring environment, teenagers will come to parents with their challenges. Even when they are rejected by peers or do poorly in school, teenagers will be successful when they find attentive and supportive parents waiting at home.
- Set rules – Parents need to set rules that offer safe boundaries for teens to work within. Parents must also adhere to those rules. When parents change the rules or couples are not on the same page enforcing the rules, teenagers are confused and unsure about appropriate behavior. Though parents should allow teenagers to discuss consequences and assist in creating rules, parents need not change them when times become difficult. When you teen is crying and making harsh statements towards you, that is not a good time to change preset rules.
- Be Self-aware – The next piece of advice is to check yourself before approaching your teenager. As humans, we each bring our world of experiences, good and bad, into our relationships. This is true for parents and teenagers. Parents need to examine how they were raised, the positive and negative aspects of their own childhood, and consider how this impacts their own role as parents. By taking a closer look at one’s negative qualities, one can more effectively love and support their children.
- Listen – Finally, listen to your teenagers. In our busy world, it can be increasingly difficult to truly listen to one another, which includes listening to our children. Teenagers experience love and support when you stop what you are doing and have a conversation with them. Parents need to let go of judgement and accept their teenager in whatever situation or stage of life he or she is found. Do not put your own spin on it or try to preach your morals to them. Instead of listening to their story through your own experience, listen to the story through the experience of your child. Once your child feels heard, only then will your teenager listen to what you have to say on the subject. Theodore Roosevelt said it well when he said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Take these principles and consider changes you want to make in your own life. Find support in family and friends. As parents, believe in yourself. Remember, this is a season in your child’s life will not last long, so enjoy the ride for what it is and make the most of it.
If you find your teen needs more support than what you can offer, reach out to us at Water’s Edge Counseling. Not only can we help your teen, we can help you as well.
Whitney Owens, LPC, MA