How to build a better relationship with your teenage years son or daughter
There is no doubt that when our children enter their teenage years the parenting relationship becomes more challenging. Oftentimes, as parents, we fall into the myth trap:
Myth one - my teen is deliberately trying to ruin my/our day.
Myth Two - my teen is not able to make a smart decision unless I hover over him/her
Myth Three - my teen does not want to help/hang out with me
There are many more and teens generally seem to get a really bad rap. My daughter wondered aloud why so many adults hate teens. The truth is there are millions of teens out there volunteering, who have great relationships with their parents and friends, do well in school and who are a real pleasure to be around.
I have met some pretty cranky older people who I prefer not to hang out with - that does not make all older people cranky!
So if your relationship with your teen is going through a rocky patch - here are some suggestions about what to do.
1) One of the important lessons I have learned whilst raising my teen and teen to be as well as with the families I work professionally with is to stop talking, stop giving advice and LISTEN. Really, it works. We listen, they feel heard and understood.
2) Ask how you can help and check it out with them rather than offering advice without being asked for it.
3) Remember when he/she was little you would make time to play and be with them? Do the same for your teen. Take them out for a coffee and leave the cell phone at home. Find an activity you both enjoy doing together at home such as cooking or making something and let them take the lead, or invite their suggestions without teaching or being critical when they do it differently from how you would normally do it.
4) Compliment your teen often. Criticize them less.
5) Ask you teen for help making decisions - my daughter has been really helpful when we go shopping and she has given me really good advice about make up and colour too.
6) Take an interest in their interests. You might hate their music but your mum probably hated your music. Finding things to discuss and learn from your teen rather than judging them will open up dinner conversations and opportunities to get closer.
7) Take the time to tuck them up, same as you did when they were small.
8) Create a weekly ritual which is all about you and them spending some quality time (not necessarily quantity time) together without emotional blackmail or making them feel guilty.
9) Tell them you love them every day
10) Apologize when you loose your temper and state clearly how you felt and why.
11) Don't set you and them up to fail by having expectations and not letting them know in advance what you would like to happen.
12) Be realistic - teens are growing, their brains are still evolving and this is the most creative they will ever be.
13) Talk positively about teens and what they have to offer. Encourage your teen to get involved in community and volunteering.
14) Remember that you and your teen are different people and make it OK for them to have different opinions than you or your family about things. Encourage debate and be curious rather than judgmental about what they think. Sure it might be radical but that's all part of growing up:-)
Making small adjustments about how we think about teens will go a long way to helping you and your teen over a rocky patch. Approaching a current conflict with an absolute or an ultimatum is going to make the situation worse. It is hard to back down and back off but those strategies will usually work best and enable him or her to trust you, that you understand.
If things get really bad try and find a youth worker at a local rec centre or a youth counsellor to talk to. Making your teen talk to someone might not be the best approach. If things get to crisis it is we the parent who needs to put the oxygen mask on first - only then can we help our teen.
Preparing for the teen years
If you are a parent of a Tween - 7-12 year old now is the best time to build the relationship you want to have when he or she becomes a teen. BC Council for the Family have created My Tween and Me parenting course offered in BC. Research indicates that this is a crucial time for families to re-build on attachment and sustain positive relationships through the teen years.
Parenting Programmes for Parents of Teens
In BC, The Maples Treatment Centre have created a programme, called Connect. It is available in communities in BC and, I believe, is being rolled out in other places as well. In the UK, The Parent Practice offers programming for parents of teens as well.
The Y and Boys and Girls Clubs are good resources for parents looking for parenting programmes too.