Adolescence is a time of turmoil, conflict and growth. It is arguably the hardest part of the life-cycle; it is most certainly the hardest part of the parenting cycle. Very often parents do not know what to expect from their teen or how to respond. However, this is the time when communication becomes most important!
Looking to open the lines of communication with YOUR teen? Here are five important tips:
- Understand and accept rebellion. You might be wondering, “What is going on with my teenager?” The most important task of adolescence is “separation/individuation” which inevitably involves rebellion. While counter-intuitive, rebellion is actually healthy. If the nest is too cozy, why would they leave?
- Learn to let go. The process of our teen breaking away will naturally evoke feelings for the parent of loss, hurt, and confusion. Remember however, that parenting a teen is a gradual process of letting go. You can be reassured that studies have shown that parents are still the most important influence on adolescents. The role shifts from control to influence. What works best with teens is negotiation.
- Hear the music behind the words. What’s critical to remember is that behavior is a statement of feelings. What’s more, parents need to learn to hear the music behind the words. Ask yourself, “What is my child feeling?” Give it a name and reflect that back to him/her. For example, “It sounds like you are feeling angry.” “I can hear that you are extremely frustrated.”
- Choose your battles. A key step in this process is to choose your battles. You have to say to yourself, if the area of conflict does not involve a safety or morality issue, it might be best to let it go for awhile and concentrate on your communication with your child.
- Make quality time a priority. Find an activity you and your adolescent can mutually enjoy doing together e.g., tennis, making a meal, going to a concert, watching a TV show you both like. When your child is ready to talk, make sure that you are ready to listen. Unfortunately, this usually occurs around 1:00am. A wise parent will sacrifice some sleep.
One Last Tip…
Parenting a young person is stressful — this is why it becomes especially important to take care of yourself and work on yourself during this critical time. You must build your positive emotional bank account. Learning new skills, making new friends, exercise and meditation are all great strategies to enhance your self-esteem. Most importantly, it’s important to know where to find support when you need it. Always remember that Long Island Crisis Center offers free, anonymous, short-term counseling, 24/7, 365 days a year — just call (516) 679-1111.