Being a parent to a small child and being a parent to a teenager are two quite different things. Many parents find themselves confused and are unable to switch their roles. Eventually, everyone gets stressed about not understanding each other. As a parent and experienced adult, it’s your responsibility to know what changes your teen kids are going through, changes that make them act differently.
It was all about snuggling and tenderness when they’re kids, and many parents are disturbed because of the cold shoulders they get from their teens. You shouldn’t let it fool you because they still want us to reach out to them, and need constant reminders that we, the parents, care. Having more freedom is vital to becoming independent, so our kids start doing things on their own, without wanting or needing their parents’ help. This change usually occurs in the teen years, and this is what you can do to stay close and give them the space they crave.
Be a role model to them
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Since our early childhood days, we tend to imitate our parents on a subconscious level. While still a toddler, a child acts like this in order to stay close to their parents, who are their main source of security and protection. Once they reach a teenage age, they start doing all the opposite things from their parents because they want to set themselves apart in order to express their individuality.
When they were just children, you laid the foundation for their behavior. Now, you continue to show them how to behave. You teach them the importance of coping with feelings, such as anxiety and frustration, understanding certain emotions, as well as including physical activity and healthy diet. During teen years, we develop our ability to understand other people’s feelings and experiences.
Support them, guide them
“Our children are only as brilliant as we allow them to be.”
― Eric Micha’el Leventhal
- Let them go. It’s important to realize that once your teen starts distancing themselves, you should be aware that they are experiencing a major change in their development. Although it is not easy, don’t try to take it personally – they’ll come back when they need to and you should be there for them. Talk to your teen about what’s happening and let them know that you understand why they’re keeping distance.
- Respect their reputation. It’s important for your teens to look cool when they’re hanging out with their friends. This means that any displays or signs or affection can mess things up because they’re often rebuffed in front of your kid’s peers. Show affection when no one else is around.
- Praise them for doing something good. Teens usually lack in self-confidence – they’re either putting themselves down or their peers do it to them. So, as a parent, try to look for things your kids are doing right and show them how proud you are of them, instead of focusing only on their flaws. The praise you give them will help build their confidence and increase their feelings of competence.
- Be real. The truth is – mom and dad don’t always know best. If you make a mistake, admit it and apologize when and how you think it’s appropriate. Show that you’re just like them, not always completely sure that you are doing the right thing and that people are essentially always a “work in progress”. Show them you don’t expect perfection, but progress.
- Respect their boundaries. Teens increasingly want more autonomy and privacy, which is often a challenge for parents. They just need to learn from their mistakes in order to develop good judgment.
- Work together. Sometimes, it’s much more difficult to have a conversation with your teen when you are sitting and forced to make an eye contact. Instead, you can ask them to work with you and talk during the activity. Whether you’re just doing the dishes, shoveling snow, or raking leaves together, you can still communicate and talk freely about anything without any inhibitions.
- Relax like they do. Whatever your teen likes to watch on TV, sit on the couch next to them, and endure through an MTV show or an episode of Gossip Girl. Sharing a laugh while sitting shoulder-to-shoulder is a great bonding opportunity.
- Tell their stories. If you share the memories of sweet and infuriating things your kids did when they were younger, you will strengthen their sense of belonging and they will know they matter to you.
- Welcome their friends. Many things are a touchy subject for a one-on-one conversation with your teen, and you can do it more easily over lunch with your kid’s friends. If you invite their friends over, your kids will be home more often.
- When problems get too big. If the misunderstandings can’t be overcome and the problems in communication grow too big, it’s time to seek professional help from experienced psychologist – you can read some of the greatest psychologists and apply their advice, or you can consult some of the cool people who will always gladly talk to you, like ones in Better Help or in Heath Group Practice, for example. Whatever you choose, understand that it’s important to get help if your teen has behavioral problems that seriously disrupt your family life or constantly cause trouble in school.
Encourage their independence
“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway… let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.” ― C. JoyBell C.
Overly-controlling parents who tend to limit their kids’ independence can leave negative consequences on their child’s physiological development, leaving them unable to control their own behavior. Parents should notice and keep track of the phases of their child’s growth and development in order to see how they change. Children who had a healthy upbringing and were able to form emotional bonds with their parents are more likely to have happier and secure relationships later in life.
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