When children grow into teenagers there is a big shift in your relationship with them. The teenage years are a passage of time when children learn to have their own thoughts and become adults, independent of their parents. Here are my top ten ways to help this transition be as painless and enjoyable as it can be.
Take every opportunity to really listen to your teenager. Use encouraging words and nods to show you are listening. Notice any emotions or feelings behind their words and reflect them back to your teen. Hold yourself back from offering advice, judgements, nagging, blaming or criticising. Try to listen to your teenager for at least 15 minutes a day. Be interested in how they have spent their day, their issues, their future and their friends. Listening to your teens’ point of view is particularly important during a heated discussion. Acknowledge their opinion, empathise with their frustrations, but leave problem-solving to a time when the situation has calmed down.
- Quality Time
Try to spend quality time with your teenager every week, doing something they want to do. This could be having a hot chocolate and a chat, going for a walk, watching a DVD together or even going to a concert. Have happy relaxed family time and as many meals together as your schedules will allow.
- Engage and Involve
Involve your teenager when you are making decisions that affect them, From planning holidays to moving house. Talk to them, find out how they feel and if necessary do some problem solving together to solve issues. If emotions are running high, empathise with how they are feeling.
- Respect their choices
Accept your teenager’s choice of friends. Don’t criticise them or make judgemental comments. Get to know their friends by inviting them round or chat with them whenever you see them. Respecting choices can extend to their taste in music, clothes and choice of career.
- Share interests
Take an interest in things your teenager is interested in. From bands, they like to favourite subjects they are studying. Do you know their top five singers or bands, words they would use to describe themselves, or people they would most like to meet?
Involve your child in your life. Ask their opinion about issues and concerns. Find out what they think about your job, your clothes and the things you do. Enlist their help. Talk to them about the things that you are passionate about. Get them involved in your interests and activities. Share your thoughts and opinions and ask for theirs.
- Encourage independence
Allow your teenager to become more independent. This can range from having discussions about when and where they are going out, and how they will stay safe to encouraging them to do anything they can do for themselves (such as cooking, washing and cleaning). Be their parent, not their slave! Have sensible boundaries and expectations, which can be extended when your teenager shows they are responsible enough to handle them. If they have difficult issues teach them how to problem-solve when they are calm and come up with a range of solutions they can then choose from.
- Allow learning from mistakes
Try to find alternatives to punishing your teenager. Soon they will be an adult so it helps if you can find more adult ways of dealing with misbehaviour. Think about natural consequences for actions. Tell them when they have upset you by stating your feelings and expectations. Guide your teenager through the steps they should take when they make a mistake: to calm down, admit their mistake, make amends, learn from it and then move on.
- Treat as individuals
One of the big issues teenagers have is when they see siblings being treated more favourably than themselves. Although all children need to be treated individually, be sure to spend time with each child, find out what they need from you and do your best to meet their needs.
- Descriptively Praise and Boost Esteem
Find every way you can to boost your child’s self-esteem. Tell them the things that you like about them. Notice and tell them specifically what they do that is kind, thoughtful or reflects your family values. Touch is also important to find ways to have physical contact from hugs to a hand on their shoulder or arm. Spend time with them and help them grow and learn.
Value your teenager’s growing independence and individuality. Show consideration for their thoughts and opinions. Allow them to make mistakes, and be there to help support them when they do! Encourage independence and let them know that you will always love them and be there for them. As they enter into adulthood help them explore their thoughts, and offer your own when asked. Your role as a parent will gradually evolve into a relationship based on friendship, support and help. Let them find their wings and fly!