Seven Tips for Parents with Teens
1. Modeling: Kids are very intuitive; they learn and integrate the behaviors and attitudes that are modeled to them by their parents. What is your child learning about relationships, feelings, gossip, or the value of appearance? Keep in mind that you are communicating to your kids every day. Any time you are dealing with a coworker, family member, friend, or a stranger, assume that your child is there watching and learning. There is no such thing as a perfect parent; acknowledging mistakes that you’ve made without excuses and making a commitment to do better may be the best gift you can give your child. 2. Undivided attention: While it’s true that teens do require an increased level of autonomy, they also still require, and desperately want, quality time with their parents. At least once per day, give your teen undivided attention. Look past their nonchalant and aloof demeanor; they do want to connect with you. 3. Talk, but don’t lecture: Ask questions about their world with genuine curiosity. Talk about your experiences as a teenager and acknowledge the complexities of being an adolescent today. Don’t wait to talk about drugs, sex, or other uncomfortable topics. If you’re embarrassed, acknowledge it. Most importantly, speak honestly and not out of a desire to manipulate or guilt. 4. Balance empathy and expectation: Teens desperately need both in equal amounts. Most parents have a style that leans more towards one direction, which is normal. Notice if your parenting style is out of balance. This is something that both parents should work on. Teenagers can become easily confused or resentful if one parent represents empathy with little expectation while the other parent sets all the limits and consequences while providing few supportive interactions. 5. Privileges must be earned: Many teens develop a sense of entitlement and believe that extras such as a cell phone, car, etc. are their birth rights. Privileges are not basic rights and you must be prepared to remove these extras if necessary. Consequences should be specific, realistic, and always followed through. 6. Respect the power of their friends: Close friends are like family to teens. Spend time getting to know your teen’s friends and acknowledge that you get how important these relationships are to them. 7. Reach out: Utilize neighbors, friends, family, teachers, school, or clergy. You are not alone in your struggles and concerns. You deserve and need support throughout this exciting, complex, and always challenging time in your child’s life.