Being the parent of a teen is a testing time for any parent. They can be sweet one minute and drive you up the wall the next! Here are 5 simple rules to help you stay sane and hopefully improve your relationship with your teenager.
Think back to when you were their age and how you felt about the world around you including your parents. Don’t approach your teen’s problems with the understanding of a grown adult but put yourself into their shoes. They don’t have your life experience and their brain is flooded with hormones, which can cause anything from fatigue and forgetfulness to anxiety and a tendency to take risks. This also means you must let them make their own experiences and learn from their own mistakes (all within reason, of course). It’s part of growing up.
If your teenager feels understood, he or she will open up and start having meaningful conversations with you. They will want to share some of the stresses they are currently under from the social, emotional and physical changes happening in their lives. This will form the basis of a common understanding and deepening trust between you.
Try to focus on the important issues. Even if your teen is driving you mad with his/her constant stroppiness, focus on the fights that are worth fighting for and don’t lose your temper over trivial things. You don’t want to be arguing with your teen over every piece of clothing they have dropped on the floor or over every pizza box not tidied. It will stress you both out and ruin the bond you created through many years of loving parenting.
You don’t want to look back one day, and neither does your son or daughter, and the only memory you have is one of constant arguing and resentfulness.
Do you find your son or daughter has changed and is into all sorts of new stuff you cannot relate to? It might seem tricky at first but try to find something you and your teen both enjoy. Maybe there is a hobby or some fun and unique things to do you can try out together to strengthen your bond?
This may be easier said than done, especially if you happen to be a single mum of a teenage boy or a single dad of a teenage daughter. It is easy to fall into the trap of imposing your interests and tastes on your teen. Rather than doing that, open up to their interests – be it watching a football match, going to the shopping mall or a gig, or just talking to them about their favourite music. You will be amazed how chatty your otherwise, grumpy and reserved teen will become when you show an interest in their favourite pursuits! This is a great way to strengthen or renew that bond you two once shared.
As the teenage years are all-consuming for us parents it is important to have some ‘time out’ to focus on your life and your interests. The more balanced and happier you are, the better you will respond to your teen’s sometimes erratic behaviour. Being stressed and tired will trigger you to over-react in a conflict situation and will increase the tension between you and your teen. If you feel a holiday is what you need but you cannot get away on your own (few of us can), then a holiday with teenagers where both of you get to enjoy the company of people your own age is a great way to relax and bond with your teenager.
Never turn away from your teenage daughter or son and never threaten to stop caring even if you are hurt or disappointed by their behaviour. Don’t forget they are going through a life-changing period and their decisions are influenced by peer pressure and hormones. Try to stay informed about what is going on in their life without trying to control them. Stay in the background and offer advice when needed and always be there for them in times of disappointment.
And finally, don’t forget those teenage years are wonderful years that need to be cherished. The world is your child’s oyster now and as he or she becomes more independent, you regain your independence. It is an exciting time for you both – you just need to work a little harder at your relationship now. Those times of unconditional love are forever behind you.