REWARDING Parenting a teen fills many grown-ups with dread, but it can be a richly rewarding relationship.
Classically, teenagers have been given a bad reputation for being difficult and hard to manage. The worst is nearly always expected, and parents anticipating the upcoming teenage years often do so with a sense of foreboding and dread.
Many parents speak about the need to ‘survive’, and they brace themselves to deal with an uncontrollable, hormonal ‘monster’. They hope to come out unscathed at the end of it, with a relatively intact and good relationship with their children once they become adults.
Parents often imagine the worst-case scenarios and then parent from this place of worry and stress. Many also feel helpless when it comes to knowing the best to parent a teenager, but it doesn’t have to be that way. What follows is a little advice to help get you started on the interesting journey that is parenting a teenager.
Big v small
Let the small stuff go. If it’s not putting them at risk, give them a little leeway to make age-appropriate decisions and to learn from the consequences of those choices.
This needs to start small and build gradually over the whole of the teenage years. Challenge yourself to step back whilst also letting your teenager know you’re there for them if they need you.
Conversely, don’t ignore the big stuff. If you suspect your child is doing something risky, do not look the other way. Watch for unexplained changes in their behaviour, appearance, school work and friends. Get curious and get involved. Ask them about it, but remember to talk less and listen more. This way they will see your interest and will be more inclined to open up in the long run.
In their shoes
From time to time it can be helpful to ask yourself: “If I was my child, how would I be feeling?” This strengthens your empathy for what they are going through and will support communication between you both.
Many teenagers complain that their parents only notice when they do something wrong. So balance this out by pointing out when they are doing something right. Try at least once a day to point out to them something that they are doing right or well. This builds their self-esteem and helps grow their autonomy for the future.
Home and heart
Moods will happen so try to allow home to be the place where teenagers feel safe to have their moods. There is so much pressure to conform and perform that it is important for teenagers to have a place where they don’t have to put their best face forward. Allow them to relax and be grumpy for a time each day.
Perhaps surprisingly lots of teenagers say they want to spend more time with their parents. Even if they don’t show that they want it, remember to make time for them throughout the teenage years.
Parenting a teenager is witnessing a transformation. They will thrash around, cause trouble and test the boundaries. But inside is a young person that wants and needs their parents to be there in the background, supporting and loving them. With this, they will grow into loved and loving young adults.
Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 085 1372528.