If you’ve seen a couple television shows or movies, you may have figured how Hollywood depicts the typical parent-teen relationship. Usually, mom and dad are the village idiots and the teenagers are disrespectful, sullen and withdrawn. Apparently, this isn’t a healthy relationship. Well, before your relationship gets to this point, remember that the dreaded teen years actually don’t have to be. That’s simply another myth we’ve been groomed to accept with shrug of our shoulders and a cluck of our tongues. “This is normal, my teenager hates me like every other teenager hates their parents”. If this is your attitude before you reach the teen years, you need to change your thinking. Unless you change your thinking, you’ll be circling the same tired old drain every other distraught parent is circling, wondering where you went wrong. The first hint is: you believe the bad press. Don’t.
Our best tool is to prepare in advance while our child is young, knowing the teenage years are coming. It’s actually not as hard as you think to keep open the lines of communication, and to foster healthy and thriving relationships with our child (or children: I have several). With consistent effort and determination, we can actually look forward to the teenage years. In reviewing my own relationship with my teenager, I’ve come up with a recipe of five “ingredients” that parents can use to develop a healthy relationship with their teenagers.
This isn’t exactly a “how-to,” but rather a thought-provoking look at changing our thinking as parents to create an environment of healthy relating and communicating. Let’s face it: nobody wants to raise a sullen, angry teenager who avoids his or her parents. If that’s your parenting goal, then return to your sofa, Tweet Deck, Facebook or fishin’ hole: I’m wasting your “me time.” Otherwise, read on.
Here are five vital ways you can help keep a healthy relationship with your teenager strong and happy for both sides:
1. Spend time together
When a child becomes a teenager, it suddenly becomes a lot less cool to hang out with Mom and Dad. However, reinforcing family structure can help provide support and a sense of well being for a teen – not to mention a potential avenue for a teen to confide in a parent. WCSAP suggests bonding activities such as family meals (without the TV on or cell phones present), joint chores, board game nights, or volunteering. Any way you can ensure your teen knows that you’re present can be a good thing as they struggle through adolescence.
2. Set a good example
You don’t need to be a saint, but it certainly helps for teens to look up to their parents as role models for their own behavior. Be mindful of how many substances you use in front of your teen – including excessive alcohol and smoking – as they can easily mimic what they see at home as acceptable habits.
3. Set boundaries
You may have a young adult in the house, but you are still the main adult, and you need to make sure your child knows that you’re the one who sets the limits. The National Institute on Drug Abuse focuses on the importance of calmly and firmly setting boundaries for your teen. Not providing boundaries can lead to teens going into adulthood with the disjointed sense of having too much freedom.
4. Be respectful
Teasing can feel like torture to a sensitive teen
With the prevalence of cyber-bullying, teens these days have more to worry about than ever when it comes to criticism and taunts. “Teasing can feel like torture to a sensitive teen,” notes WCSAP. Don’t make fun of your teen, no matter how lightly, and refrain from using negative language or put-downs. Hearing this from their parental figure can hurt a teen’s self-esteem and can make them feel unhappy and unsafe at home.
5. Show you care
Whether it’s by making them a special lunch or by sending them notes “just because…” it’s important that your teen feels loved and supported by their parents especially during turbulent years. If you have a fight with your teen, take the time to apologize. Emphasize that you love them no matter what. Put a focus on the strength and unconditional love of the family unit, and encourage your teen to be a part of that as well.
It’s not always easy being the parent of a teenager, but it’s absolutely worthwhile to take the time to foster a strong, healthy relationship that promotes respect and love between both parties. Although every teenager is different; It is fundamental that a parent provide both guidance and support as their child works through the storm of adolescence.
Featured photo credit: Workandapix via Pixabay