Parenting is a minefield generally, but our children hitting those adolescent years can add a whole new dimension to the meaning of extreme confusion! I can remember wondering why the successful guidebook to that phase didn’t exist.
The truth is, and my bookshelves will testify to this, there are zillions of helpful guides out there; but they all seem to provide conflicting advice!
Do I adopt a no-nonsense strict reign, with severe consequences for deviations; or does the answer lie in a more laissez-faire, non-interventional approach? And if you’re anything like me, you will have swung from one extreme to the other, doubting your own competence at every turn, and at worst, feeling like a complete failure!
But stop there. Find a quiet spot to sit down with a cup of tea, and believe me when I tell you, you are not a failure.
Let’s turn this issue away from you, and take a look at the bigger picture, where we might gain a greater understanding of what is happening when our little darlings decide we are no longer the centres of their universe and lose all ability to even engage, as Harry Enfield aptly depicted in his caricature of Kevin the Teenager.
Getting inside the head of a teen
Adolescence is roughly the period of time which spans from the ages of 11-18 (with wide variations, I hasten to add!). If we can try and understand the purpose of this phase of development, we may begin to see that it is an essential rite of passage all children have to go through, on their road to becoming an adult.
The PURPOSE of Adolescence is to acquire a PERSONAL IDENTITY
- So a person knows who they are in the world
- To give their life meaning and direction, through commitment, values and goals
- To provide a sense of free will and personal control
- To allow for consistency, coherence and harmony between their values, beliefs and commitments
- To be able to recognise their potential and a sense of their future possibilities and alternative choices
The main goal of an adolescent, is to go from being a dependent child, to an independent adult, defined according to who they are as a person, learned by their own unique valuing system designed to allow them to flourish in the world.
This might explain why adolescents are desperate to separate themselves from their parents, through their dress, their choice in music, their friends, etc.
Already, we can begin to see the areas of potential conflict. After all, don’t we as parents know what is best for our own children?
As parents, we need to try and lessen the areas of conflict by backing-off, and allowing teenagers the space to find their own identities.
Very well-meaning parents want their children to be happy, successful and make good life-choices. But, the conflict comes from us believing we as parents, know how to make that happen, when in fact, everyone of us is born programmed to knowing how to make it happen for ourselves!
Well, it all sounds like it could make sense, but I hear you asking, how?
How do you enable your child to be an INDIVIDUAL, when so much could go wrong?
What does your role as a parent look like in the teenage years?
And how do you provide support and help when your teens are unhappy or in trouble?
7 Tips for parenting teens
- Teens are notoriously bad communicators, but we need to remember, communication is two way – Hold off the Spanish Inquisition; ironically it is the quickest way to shut down communication!
- Become an expert at listening. Really listening means not interrupting, but listening to understand. Sometimes we can ‘listen’ to body language, even when there are no words. Being listened to helps us all to feel understood and valued
- Try not to pass judgement. None of us like to feel criticised. It can make us defensive and more likely to rebel – remember, your teen is desperately trying to discover his own identity – he needs support, not criticism.
- Decide on what your rules are and make them few. Natural consequences always work better than punishment or blackmail. When your child gets in trouble at school for not handing her homework in because she was up all night on her laptop, her consequence will be with the school and not you.
- Empathise with her anger/frustration, but don’t feel you have to fix it for your teen. Feelings are what make us human!
- Aside from keeping your teen safe, as far as is possible, ‘butt out’ of her life.
- Focusing on your own life, will help keep you sane!
Clearly, there will be times when parenting teens can bring greater concerns for which you will need outside support. Do not be afraid to seek help, and remember, things can and will get better!
If anything in this article has resonated with you, either as a parent or a young person, and you would like to have a chat about how I can help, please get in touch.