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Parenting Your Teen: Skills and Stategies
Parenting teens can be the most challenging period of a parenting career. Unfortunately, little prepares us for the upheavals of this time. It is a tumultuous time, full of unknowns. Your child has embarked upon the process of differentiation, and that process can be challenging and frightening for the teen as well as for the parents involved.
Differentiation can be described as a developmental process in which one unit separates from another. During the process the teen separates from the parent and must learn to live in the world at large. Meanwhile, the parent must provide enough emotional space for the teen to do so while continuing to provide the care, nurturing, and support still needed. It is a difficult, confusing and sometimes painful process, but it must be undertaken by both sides.
So how do we let go enough to make the process safe? In my experience as a parent and as a therapist, the answer is, gradually. We must allow teens to make mistakes, to help them up when they fall, to help them learn from their mistakes and probably most importantly, to let them know that we love them: the person they are, and the person they are becoming.
When our children were very young, they would play on the floor near us, checking in with us periodically as they continued to explore the world further and further away, We provided them the love and support they needed then. We kept them from getting really hurt and always provided a safe place of return.
In some ways that is what we must do with our teens, except the world is bigger and the risks, greater. We still dry their tears, but in addition, we must speak to them about limits, about safety, about drugs and sex, about things that make us feel uncomfortable and afraid, both for them and for us. And yet those conversations are a necessity. They sow the seeds of trust so needed as the teen negotiates a sea of new experiences.
At the same time, the teen is learning that we are not perfect. We make mistakes, sometimes frequently. Teens sense this and they can be disillusioned and disappointed in us as parents. They can be angry and sullen when we impose limits. So, know your limits, own your mistakes, and apologize when you are wrong. Remember, all things pass. We want them to pass well.
So, here is my top ten list:
10. Allow teens to make mistakes. Use natural consequences. Let teens understand and experience some of the consequences of their actions. Don't be punitive or controlling. Instead, help them deal with the consequences of their actions.
9. Role model the behavior that you want to see in your teen. Model respect and you show your teen that respect is important. It may take time, but they will come to understand that. .
8. Keep talking to your teens. Try to know what they are feeling, thinking and doing, even if that information upsets you.
7. Know your teen's friends and parents.
6. Join a support group. It helps you feel like you are not alone in this time period.
5. Avoid power struggles with your teen. Power struggles lead to real problems and are rarely successful.
4. Help your teens develop a vision for themselves in the future, both in the long term and in the short term.
3. Avoid lecturing. They won't listen and you will feel frustrated. But do say what you feel you must.
2. Be a parent, not a friend. Set limits as to behavior and be clar about what you are willing and not willing to tolerate. Pick your battles.
1. Love your teen. Love your teen. Love your teen!
copyright/all rights reserved Audrey Howitt 2015