As an exasperated parent how many times have you heard yourself muttering complaints about the teenagers in your life? Teenagers these days, don’t know they’re born, lazy so and so, her room’s a bombsite! I confess I’ve said many, if not all of these on my less patient and frustrated days! I know my mum said the same things about me and I suspect her mum said similar things about her. And so it goes, from generation to generation. So what is it about the teen years that parents find so frustrating and why?
When our little ones come into the world it seems all good parents spend most of their waking (and sleeping or lack of sleeping!) hours worrying about how to protect them, how to make the right decisions for them so that they grow into healthy, happy adults. The irony is that once our off spring reach an age where they want to become independent and separate from us – we don’t necessarily want them too! We still want to control what they do and how they do it. Mostly this happens because we are afraid of not being able to protect them, of them being hurt in that big bad world out there. From the young person’s perspective we can seem overbearing, controlling, mistrusting or we just ‘don’t get it!’
So how do we bring these two opposite positions together? The young person’s need to become an individual, separate from his parents, and the parent’s need to protect and guide?
- Remember that it’s part of the biological, emotional and social process for a child to grow away from its parents – its natural and necessary!
- As part of this process a young person may not turn to you and confide in you the way they used to – this doesn’t mean they don’t need you – they do, just differently.
- Setting firm but reasonable boundaries will help the young person to develop in the wider world whilst still feeling safe and secure knowing you are there for them
- If you are in a two parent family make sure you and your partner show a united front when dealing with your children. Conflict and inconsistency between parents can cause more confusion for children in what is already a complicated world.
- Create an atmosphere where they can speak to you:
- Let them set the agenda about what they tell you and when. Don’t push for information, let them come to you
- Talk when you’re in the car, when you’re cooking, playing cards etc. The young person doesn’t have to look directly at you so it can feel easier and less confrontational.
- When they tell you something that concerns you, don’t overreact – listen before responding and try to keep your language neutral and non-judgemental.
- If conflict escalates, take a break. Rarely are things resolved satisfactorily when everyone is shouting and no-one is listening. Maybe even send a text after you’ve both had some time out!
- Remember that their world IS different from the one you grew up in. The pressures they face are different – listen with empathy, not judgement.
- Pick your battles. Is a messy room really that big of a problem? On the other hand, underage drinking or staying out past curfew may well be a big cause of concern. If you can relax with the smaller stuff, your young person will know that when you do raise an issue it’s something you feel strongly about.
If problems seem more than just the ‘normal’ parent and teenager conflicts or you need more support in talking to your teen, there is help out there. Try talking to other parents whose parenting style you admire. Check out the websites of mental health organisations like ‘youngmind’ for information. You are not alone – being a parent is a tough job but remember being a teen can be the toughest of times too!
If you would like to talk through your situation please give me a call / text / email and I will be happy to help
Phone: 07470 187976