The 7 keys to parenting teens
Teens have so much to deal with in today’s society – pressures from school, family and peers, wanting to be popular, having to make major life choices at a young age that can result in significant stress. If stressful events accumulate it may bring on depression. A sense of failure e.g. not getting A’s on exams can sometimes bring on depression, as can experiences of loss (loss of friendship, family).
Make home an emotionally safe place. Build a strong family network to support your teen through his or her inevitable disappointments and hurts. Slow the pace of life down so your teen has enough chill out time. Be supportive and encouraging.
Talk whenever you can. It’s important to make the most of the occasions in which your teen is happy to share their thoughts and views. Listen attentively and empathise. Avoid any urge to lecture, nag or argue with your teen. If your teen is unwilling to talk about their problems, speak to their teacher or the school guidance officer who might have some helpful information.
Nurture a positive self-view. Help your teen remember ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past and then help him understand that these past challenges help him build the strength to handle future challenges. Teach your teen to see the humour in life, and the ability to laugh at themselves.
Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook. Even when your teen is dealing with painful events, help him or her look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Help your teen see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good. An optimistic and positive outlook enables your teen to see the good things in life and keep going even in the hardest times.
Focus on solutions. If your teen is struggling with a problem, coach them to solve it rather than you trying to solve it for them. Encourage your teen to communicate in an appropriate manner and brainstorm solutions. You can get the brainstorm started if necessary, but don’t do all the work. Your teen’s active participation will build confidence. Support the good ideas and add to them as needed. Parents can’t solve every problem their teen experiences. But they can teach them healthy coping strategies so they can manage stress in the future.
Establish routines, house rules and expectations. Ensure your teen knows what’s expected in terms of jobs around the house, screen or mobile phone usage. Ensure they have a balance between school work, sport, friend, family time, fun and relaxation. Make sure they get adequate sleep and maintain good nutrition.
Remember some degree of moodiness is typical during the teen years but if their behaviour suddenly changes or they seem very down for a long period of time without improving then parents should seek professional assistance.
Take care of yourself as a parent. Ensure your own needs for intimacy, time alone, friendships and recreation are being met. Your teen does not have to dominate your life.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to maintain a warm and caring relationship with your teen. They may think they don’t need you, but their connection with you is important.