As a mental health therapist, parents come to me with many questions about raising their teenagers. I hear comments such as “Am I making the right choice in this form of discipline?” or “Why did my teenager make this decision?” or “What am I doing wrong?” These can be some of the most difficult years for parents, who bump up against rebellious teens trying to “find themselves”. In addition, parents are trying to understand a world that has drastically changed. Adolescents live in a time of cell phones, social media, self-injury, bullying, and substance abuse that has never been known before. Parents are seeking guidance on how to care for their teenagers during these trying times. The good news is I am offering helpful advice to parents to soften the blow of the adolescent years.
One of the most important principles in raising teenagers is consistency. In a world that is constantly changing, teenagers need a space that can be relied upon. Below are helpful tips on creating consistency and appropriate rules with your teens:
- Parents must set rules and 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.
- 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. We know we love our children but sometimes our actions may not align with our feelings. Make every effort to display love towards them by what you say and do.
- Parents must check themselves before approaching their 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. Also check your own emotions and allow yourself time to calm down before having a negative reaction with your teen.
- Parents must listen to their 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 and in your home. 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 have tried these principles and still are not finding success, give us a call. We spend our days helping parents connect with their children and teenagers.