Looking for some ideas to create a good relationship with your teenager?
People describe parenting a teenager as one of the most demanding roles a parent will ever have.
How to get along with your teenager
Having a teenager in your family can be a terrifying experience. As a parent you can find yourself under constant attack. Your authority is questioned, your judgment subjected to ridicule and your simple requests totally ignored.
You can begin to feel a growing sense of confusion, frustration and annoyance as you're bombarded by the challenges and rapid mood swings. Your precious child turns into a monster. Bewildered, you seriously question why you ever had kids in the first place.
Living with a teenager may prove to be a nightmare for many parents, but it doesn't have to be that way. Given the right amount of understanding, support and guidance they can provide parents with a lot of joy and happiness.
It's incredible, though, how many parents seem to forget what being a teenager was like! The period of adolescence is a time of rapid physical, emotional and social change. It's a time when the young person begins to explore new attitudes, values and behaviours and to develop a whole new social and sexual identity.
Without parental support and guidance they often feel extremely vulnerable as they seek to discover who they are (identity), where they fit (belonging) and whether they are good enough (competency) to make it in the adult world.
This search for identity results in a need for independence and autonomy, and it's precisely at this point that parents become afraid. In order for a teenager to grow up they must also grow away from their parents.
Letting go is hard for teenagers, but it's positively scary for their parents. The subsequent struggle to gain independence by the teenager often results in dramatic mood swings and a defiance of parental authority.
Frequently, a power struggle develops as parents quickly conclude that they don't like who their child is becoming. Desperately they search for ways to change and control the developing patterns of behaviour. Skirmishes over clothes, friends, junk food, entertainment, homework and curfews soon escalate into major battles of the will.
Recently a father of a 16-year-old girl came to counselling to seek some help in dealing with his daughter's unacceptable and outrageous behaviour.
He expressed concern over the fact that she'd failed to come home by midnight on Saturday night - the agreed-upon curfew time. He claimed that recently she'd become insolent, secretive and sloppy, and her grades at school had "fallen away." Naturally he was concerned and worried.
When she did arrive home at 1:30 am, she slammed the front door and went to her room as though nothing was wrong.
The father said he yelled down the hallway at her, demanding that she "please explain."
As he relayed the dialogue of that heated exchange, I noticed how passionately involved he became as he relived the situation.
"Stop for a moment," I said, "and listen to you. Were you happy with the way you handled things?"
"I'm sorry now!" he said. "I'd have to admit I lost control of myself. I just don't know what's gotten into her. I really don't."
It's interesting how parents of teenagers so often end up losing control. The more out of control the teenager appears to be, the more controls the parent tries to establish.
In many instances parents become out of control trying to get control of the situation - the more the control, the greater the possibility of rebellion.
Much of the tension and conflict that emerges in parenting teenagers can be avoided, or at best minimised, if parents will simply seek to keep the lines of communication open. By creating an open, accepting atmosphere within the family, interactions between the teenager and their parents can be kept healthy and positive.
Learn to listen - with your mouth shut.
Listening shows you care. It's really important that you respect the opinions and feelings your teenager expresses. Parents who don't listen and show respect soon find that their teenager no longer share what they're doing or what they think and feel because they're afraid of your judgement and over reaction.
Kids enjoy it when you show an interest in what they're doing. One of the most affirming things you can do is to spend time sharing activities with your teenagers. They love it, too, when you welcome their friends at home and provide them with a place to socialise.
Teenagers are hungry for love and approval. They may not always show it, but they need your affection and acceptance. Just when they need warmth, closeness and touching, we stop giving it to them believing they're too old for that now and may resent any expression of sentiment or "big show" of affection.
Tell them you're proud of them.
It's really important for parents to show confidence and express trust in their teenager. Let them know you appreciate their contributions and that you support their decisions when they show sound judgement.
Respect their privacy.
Often the peer group is a bridge for trying out adult behaviours. Teenagers are afraid of adult and parental ridicule and rejection. It's important therefore, not to pry into their activities unnecessarily or eavesdrop on their telephone conversations. Allowing teenagers to take responsibility for their own room shows that you respect their need for space and privacy.
Teenagers still need guidance and direction. They expect parents to set limits and maintain certain boundaries. Without these they feel a sense of betrayal and abandonment. If limits are lacking, a teenager is often forced into an uncritical acceptance and attachment to their peer group as a model or major ally. If the peer group is organised around drugs or acting out negative behaviour, the potential for damage and danger is high.
Kids see things from a new and different angle to us. Parents need to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. We encourage maturity in them by showing a tolerance of difference.
Allow teenagers to make choices. They will no doubt make mistakes and fail, but this is part of the learning, growing process. The way teenagers discover their identity and differentiate themselves from the family is by questioning, doubting, challenging and testing your value system. It's all part of maturing and being independent and autonomous.
Don't needlessly criticise.
It's possible to nag and criticise teenagers to the point where they give up and become disappointed, frustrated and angry. They may even feel provoked to seek revenge for the lack of understanding and support. Needless criticism is often felt as a devastating attack that unsettles teenagers who are not yet really sure of themselves.
Develop a good sense of humour.
Humour is a good way to deal with the sudden indifference, withdrawal and even aggression that teenagers get caught up in from time to time. Often teenagers don't expect to be taken literally and can react with confusion when parents "get serious" and take them up on some of their statements or emotional outbursts. Seeing the humorous side often creates an underlying bond between parents and teenagers that helps to build confidence and self-esteem.
By Bryan Craig - As published in Signs of the Times