An all too familiar world is that of a teenager. Learning social and academic skills while trying to deal with hormonal changes is something few of us would go back to, no matter the payout. Perhaps an even more difficult aspect of the teenage world, is being the parent of one. You don’t need to wait long after mentioning the age of your child for the comments to start. Too often, parents will lament about their teenager. The mess, the emotional struggle, or the flat out attitude and disrespect are popular topics when the real reactions surface. However, in the midst of all the growing pains and turmoil is the same child which parents loves and truly want to be close to. As a result, parents are often left trying to push open the door to their teen’s world only to receive a harsh rejection. To help reconnect with your teen, we’ve compiled some tested and proven ways for you to reference. After all, as we referenced in our last blog on the adolescent brain, this is a crucial developing time for your teen. Though difficult and seemingly contrary at times, they will need you most during their developing teen years. Here are a few ways you can continue to strengthen your connection with your teen.
Patience Is Key
We know this is probably the last topic you want to read about, which is why we started with it. Reason being, one of the most effective ways to teach is by doing. You’ve heard the old saying, actions speak louder than words. As products of our environment, we are also products of our upbringing. How you interact with your child during his teen years of puberty and confusion is one of the biggest determining factors that shape their behavior and self esteem.
Remember this aspect when you’re in the heat of an argument. In the event that your teenage son is short or cutting in his speech, it’s easy to immediately jump to anger and demand something along the lines of, “Don’t use that tone with me! Go to your room until you’re ready to speak to me differently!” While disrespectful behavior is not okay, as the parent, you have now directly displayed the behavior you just forbidden your son to have. Additionally, it’s crucial to understand that your child is experiencing levels of hormones and challenges that they have not yet encountered. To expect them to understand how to manage those emotions is unfair to expect, and needs to be patiently addressed. In the same situation, try approaching it like this, “Son, you’re speaking to me in a very cutting way, is there something wrong?” Removing the personal offense from the conversation can have an extremely disarming effect on your teenager, and opens the ground for communication rather than isolation.
Listening Goes a Long Way
Rather than jumping in to immediately prove a point to your teen, take a step back. Even if he has a history of conversing, as he becomes a teenager, socializing can change quite drastically. In these moments of conversation it can be difficult to refrain from firing questions at him to try and open him up. However, creating space for him to mentally process and have time to respond to a prompting can go a long way. When active listening is not practiced, it will more than likely push your teenager away, rather than expressing a concern or inquiry as you may have hoped.
To actively listen to your teen means to allow a sometimes large or awkward amount of time for them to respond. Give them the ground to speak, even if it takes time and potentially hurts. This style of leadership shows that you value him as an individual and respect him enough to allow him to open up on his own terms. Over time, a level of trust will naturally develop and less prompting will be needed.
A simple concept, but extremely important. Though it’s likely your teen is old enough to be home alone while you run errands or pick up dinner, try to limit your time away from him. As he continues to learn more about himself in this stage, he may reach a time where he is ready and willing to talk with you. We understand things always need to be done, but showing him that you will be there when he is needing to talk is the biggest factor in developing trust.
As his parent, being present gives a feeling of safety, comfort, and security. Even if you are not in the same room as your teen, knowing you are there let’s him know they’re not alone, and you are there to support them. To add to this point, being present does not mean invading their personal area. Your teen will more than likely withdraw more than he ever has before, and may wish to be left alone. This can be very difficult and often parents start to feel a painful separation, ending up in over-stepped boundaries. Unfortunately, your teen’s reaction can be further separation and a draw towards more secrecy. Try to give your teen the personal space he desires; don’t be a helicopter.
Read Your Teen
Have you ever had a morning at work where you are extremely tired? In those moments of trying to slowly wake up, you’re met with an intense, vivacious individual. What is your response? More than likely, you would further withdraw, and potentially even be put off by such a stark contrast of what you felt. Believe it or not, this is a concept that is crucial in approaching your teen.
Let’s say, after a day at school, your teen comes home and is quiet or withdrawn. While you may be thrilled to see him, coming at him with an exuberant “Hey son! How was your day?! What did you learn?!” may actually push him further into silence. Instead, try to gauge where your teen is at when he arrives home, and meet him there. If he is quiet, welcome him home calmly and see how he responds. From there, you can better determine what mood he may be in, and can meet him on his level. You may find a quicker, and more open response from him instead.
It’s Not All You
To be a parent is to hurt. The unexplainable love that is present for your child is intense and unique. During these developing teen years, it can be hard to process why your teen is all of a sudden against you. As a gentle encouragement, it’s pertinent to remember not to take it personally. For example, if your teen comes home and is irritable and reactive, stomping up to his room yelling, “I hate you! You never understand me!”, the sting of pain can be all too real. In those moments remember to remain calm, and not to take it personally. As previously mentioned, leading by example is the most effective impression you will have on your teenager. Though you may want to storm into his room and remind him of how ungrateful he is and all you have provided for him, shift your perspective.
Your teen is not reacting to you alone. Hormones, social life, school, and other stressors play a large part in the mixed emotions and dramatic responses you see from your teen in those moments. Though it hurts, and everything in you wants to defend yourself and prove them wrong, it will achieve nothing. Instead, allow your teen time to cool down and remain calm. Once the dust has settled, approach them and ask how they are doing rather than immediately addressing the argument. Knowing there are other factors playing a part in their behavior will help strengthen your understanding and provide the “open space” he needs. This is not to say that negative behavior should be enforced, but giving time to your teen to process their emotions can help significantly. The simple phrase “connect before you correct” is a simple way to remember this tool.
Results May Vary
Perhaps the most common fine print you’ll find on any product still applies in your relationship with your teen. While each of these points are effective and healthy ways to reach out to your teenager, he still may not respond how you hoped. First off, don’t get discouraged. Every child is different and every family relationship is different. Don’t expect a specific outcome from your teen or you’ll run the risk of damaging your relationship with them on a very deep level.
More importantly, don’t expect results immediately. While it is a possibility, there are many times you will not see the benefits or results of your interactions with your teen for years. What’s important is to remember that your teen is still your child, and while they may be having growing pains, they still need the respect and care you need as an individual.
At New Vision charter school, we understand that each student is different. Our staff is experienced and passionate about creating a healthy and safe environment for everyone to learn and grow individually. Maximizing your child’s potential is our purpose, and we encourage the involvement of parents in every facet. Learn more about our curriculum, class size, and student life by visiting our website, or call today for more information.