Few parenting challenges are quite as terrifying as handling a teenager. Sure, potty training may seem like an endless battle at the time, but it looks like a piece of cake in comparison to parenting a teen. Horror stories of teenage moodiness, rebellion, and questionable taste in friends leave many parents feeling grossly unprepared for the unavoidable drama on the horizon.
The key to successfully tackling this phase is to take a deep breath, relax, and remember that teens are not monsters. They’re just kids going through a lot of physical, emotional, and social changes–all at the same time. Parents can build and maintain a healthy relationship with their children throughout the teen years with a bit of patience and a lot of love. The following tips help parents create a lasting bond that makes navigating the teen years somewhat easier:
- Talk. Although teens seem to prefer spending most of their time in their rooms, they do want to know that their parents take an interest in their lives. The key to conversing with a teen is to keep it casual and relaxed. Much to a parent’s surprise, an informal “How was your day?” can prompt many teens to open up. Talking regularly about friends is a helpful way to monitor what’s happening in a child’s peer crowd. It also shows teens that their parents are genuinely interested in what’s happening in their personal lives. Goals, accomplishments, struggles, and any individual interests (sports, movies, music) are fantastic subjects. The point of these daily discussions is to establish a fun, relaxed, and enjoyable exchange of information. It’s incredibly important that these chats never turn into a scolding session; that will only turn teens off to the whole idea. Parents should aim for at least 15 to 30 minutes of conversation each day at a time when their kids seem particularly chatty–after school, in the car, at the dinner table, or before bed are great opportunities.
- Listen, listen, listen. Once the conversations start flowing, parents should let their teens take the reins. That allows them to steer the conversation in the direction they desire. Great listening provides teens the chance to unload what’s on their mind. It’s helpful to respond to them with appropriate comments and questions and encourage them to elaborate. Listening is incredibly crucial during difficult or touchy conversations. Parents should try to listen to their teen with an open mind and respond constructively if their teen approaches them with a problem. It can be difficult for parents to remain calm when their child has done something wrong, but it’s essential to maintain this open line of communication. A hasty reaction may cause a teen to clam up in the future.
- Establish and enforce rules. Although it’s important to listen and remain rational while discussing troubling situations with teens, it’s equally important to set standards. Teens need to learn acceptable behavior, and they need to know that there are consequences in life when they break those rules. Parents should avoid screaming, shouting, and belittling, but merely enforce whatever punishment fits the offense.
- Spend time together. Spending quality time together is a great way to build a strong bond. Life gets hectic, and crazy schedules can leave many teens feeling forgotten and isolated. Taking time out of a busy schedule to hang out together makes a teen feel valued and appreciated. A simple gesture, such as going for a hike, grabbing an ice cream, or catching a movie, will make a world of difference.
- Be a parent. It’s easy to blur the line between parent and friend when desperately trying to form a bond with a teen. It can be tricky to listen and be open-minded like a friend while still setting and enforcing rules and boundaries. Even though it may cause small arguments, teens need responsible parents who look out for them and keep them safe. Parents concerned that doling out punishments will break their bond with their child should remember that teens often respect parents who stick to their word (even though they’d never admit it).
The teen years can be quite a rollercoaster, but they don’t have to be a monstrous nightmare. Parents can develop an unbreakable bond with their teens with regular conversations, fantastic listening skills, and understanding but firm demeanor. Spending quality time together and showing genuine interest in their hobbies, friends, and personal lives will strengthen that bond. Patience and an open mind are incredibly helpful when raising a teen, and they can make these years incredibly enjoyable.
Learn more from these classic books on parenting teens: