How to have an effective relationship with your teen-5 tips
How to have an effective relationship with your teen: 5 important tips – by Ilze Alberts
Many parents are feeling overwhelmed and even fearful about their children’s teenage years. They are nervous to do too little or too much in fear to alienate their teens. As I have raised my two adult children through their teenage years and even faced the death of my former husband when my son was 14 years old and my daughter was in her matric year, I have understanding of how it can be carpeted with mine fields. I had many parents who asked me for guidance and I therefore decided to write about it. I am sharing my own personal experiences with my kids as teens and my doubts, fears, successes and insights I had during their teenage years. May this be of value to someone out there?
These are 5 tips on how to have an effective relationship with your teen:
Tip 1: Get to know their world
The world of today’s teens is quite daunting for most parents. It is a world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Internet, drugs, sex, alcohol and many other experiences quite new to many parents. I often hear parents of tweens (the period before teens) expressing their concerns about the upcoming teen years. I have both enjoyed and disliked my kid’s teen years. They can become like aliens in your house with their moods, emotions, demands, selfishness and overfocusedness on their interests and priorities. I made sure I got to know their world, not by becoming like a teen myself, but by listening to their music, watching their movies, listening to their talk, showing an interest in their world that is so profoundly great and overwhelming for them. They might seem to only be interested in their social lives or their sport events, but in their heart of hearts they still need their mommy and daddy.
Ask yourself “How can I get to understand my teens world better? What can I do to get better insight in the world of my teen?”
Tip 2: Guard against becoming the preacher
It is too easy to become the preacher and warn them against the dangers of their world. But all they perceive is that you are old-fashioned and you don’t have a clue. The more you preach to them and set tight boundaries, the more they see you as the enemy and your relationship and communication become strained. I know I wanted to stand on the mountaintops and shout out to my teens how to be careful about the clubs, the malls, drugs, bullies, Internet and all my suppressed fears and insecurities. But all they heard was nag, moan, nag, moan and they did not get me. The more I wanted to preach, the more they pulled away from me. Until the day my penny dropped. STOP BEING THE PREACHER! That day my communication with them changed from preaching to talking and informing with caring not with carelessness in their perceptions. A research conducted by Oprah magazine and Seventeen magazine concluded that moms who speak openly and freely to their daughters about sexual issues had a more open and approachable relationship with their teen girls and these girls on average had their first sexual intercourse around ages 17. The girls whose mom did not speak to them feel withdrawn from their mothers and had their first sexual intercourse around the ages of 12-14 years. This research encouraged me to speak openly and freely to my teens with a watching eye on my preaching mode.
Ask yourself “About what am I preaching and nagging too much?”
Tip 3: Remember the fun and discoveries of your own teenage years
Remember yourself as a teenager and remind yourself of your pains and pleasures, challenges and supports, the uncertainties, peer pressure and how you handled it all. We did our teenage years according to the time we found ourselves in and our teens are doing their teenage years according to the time they find themselves in. I think many parents are fearful for the wellbeing of their own teenage children because they know what they were up to as teenagers themselves. Teenage years is an important period of your life; it is a time of learning to be more independent, rely more on yourself, having more freedom and a lot of difficult choices, learning about relationships with the opposite sex, the tears and ecstasy of falling in and out of love, lots of school work, learning to deal with pressure and being halfway between being a child and an adult. It is also a time of fun and new discoveries.
Ask yourself “how was I as a teenager and what fears about my teenage children are based on my own experiences?”
Tip 4: Give them wings
Learn to trust that you did a good enough job with your parenting. Your biggest impact as a parent on your children is in the beginning years of their life and after the first 6 years you are just enforcing the basic principles and parenting style you have incorporated. Give your teen a long enough string to explore, but not too long that they hang themselves. Even though teens seem to be more focused on their friends and social life, you as the parent is still VERY IMPORTANT to your teen. I have said to my teenage children that they must know that trust is very important and that I choose to trust them. But if trust is broken, it is difficult to repair. This is what my father said to me when I was a teenager and it acted as a compass for me; I did not want to loose his trust.
Ask yourself “where can I let go a bit more with my teen?”
Tip 5: Be teen-focused
Apart from knowing their world, also know your teen. Know what is really of value, importance and priority to your teen. Watch what they fill their space with, what they spend their time doing, what they like to talk about, what motivates them, what goals they are setting, in which areas of their lives are they disciplined and organized. The answers to these questions will help you to know what is really important to your teenage child. The rule of thumb of a good relationship with your teen is acceptance without qualification and attempting to give them what they want within boundaries and age appropriate limitations. Expect the best from them with realistic expectations. I enjoyed my kid’s teenage years as I discovered so much about them. I realized they are not extensions of me, but their own unique individual selves. Opening yourself to go through your fears and to enjoy your teenage kids, open a new world of experiences for you.