Parenting in general can be both exciting and exhausting. Now, parenting a teenager is the climax of it.
It’s the phase where you have to deal with self-esteem, social and peer issues, rebellious behavior, puberty, etc.
This article is for you if what you’re seeking how to handle it all and, in the process, develop a close relationship with your teenage child/ren. You just have to:
1. Treat Them Like Teenagers, Not Children Or Adults
Your teen is no longer that little girl/boy you had yesterday, anymore. Hence, so it’s important that you adjust your expectations and not treat them as a child.
Nonetheless, teenagers are not quite adults and cannot be held responsible as an adult.
The teenage brain is in the middle of a critical stage of development, and teens need you to help them through this part of their lives.
Contrary to what they may think or want to believe, they’re not quite developed in their decision-making, reasoning, or managing impulsivity.
Instead of assuming they will act and think like an adult, be prepared for some seemingly irrational behaviour because they are bound to come.
And when they do, have some compassion and recognise that your teen is still learning a lot and nowhere near being an adult yet.
The teenage stage is one where there’ll be a lot of learning through failure and mistakes.
See the negative experiences in their lives as learning opportunities, because that’s what they are.
2. Let Them Know You’re Always There To Talk
Teenagers are at the stage in life where they need as much guidance and direction to a bright future as they can get.
Sometimes your young teenager may not want to engage in conversations because she fears you could judge her. She may not also be sure if you would scold her or not.
Developing a close and helpful relationship involves letting her know that you are always available for her, especially when she needs someone to talk to.
3. Listen When They Talk To You.
You’ll find that it can be easy to get lost in the slang and moodiness of a conversation with a teenage girl.
But one of the best things you can do to develop a close relationship with your teenager is to listen to them.
So, block any distractions, give them your attention, listening without judgment while they talk.
It will help to turn down the TV or radio if you’re in the car, put down your phone, or cut the TV off at home and face him/her. This helps them know you are paying attention to what they have to say.
While at it, try not to be such a mum; i.e., don’t think about how to respond while she is talking.
If for example, she’s talking to you about a friend that skipped school, don’t interrupt and start telling her all the reasons it’s wrong.
Instead, focus on the message she’s trying to give you.
For what it’s worth, she could be trying to let you know that she has already decided not to skip school.
4. Be Flexible With Their Freedoms
If your teen is making an effort and showing their responsibility, give them more freedom.
Likewise, if they are making bad choices, waste no time in being more restrictive.
Ultimately, you want them to learn that their behavior gives them freedom or restrictions and their own choices determine their outcomes.
For instance, if your teenager is asking for permission to do something you’re inclined to say no to, hear them out.
Say, “I’m not comfortable with this, but I want you to show me that you’re responsible enough to go to this event with your friends.”
On the same note, say, “I gave you some freedom and you didn’t handle it right, so we need to scale back now.”
5. Choose Your Battles
It will only annoy them and stress you if you don’t make the decision to choose your battles and learn to let some things slide.
Yes, teens need boundaries and discipline, but you will get along better with your teenager if you pick your battles and not go teeth to teeth over everything.
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Don’t punish or lecture your daughter over the smallest of situations, else you risk the chance of raising a rebel.
Address issues that involve her safety and wellbeing. For example, set rules for her curfew, grades, and online behavior, and let small things like an unmade bed on a hectic morning go. It’s not worth the time or the ensuing forth and back.
Ultimately, you want to lean into trust, not suspicion/paranoia.
6. Respect Their Privacy
I understand the motherly inclination of wanting to know everything going on in the life of your teenagers 24/7, if possible.
But alas, the cliché maxim: “less is more” also applies in the situation of developing a close relationship with your teen.
As your child gets older, he/she will crave, and demand, more privacy.
Contrary to your ‘parent instincts’, you will actually get along with her better if you respect the fact that there are parts of their life that are private to them.
Let your son know you are respecting his privacy.
Voice things like: “I want you to know that mummy trusts you and respects your privacy.
But know that if there is something going on or you need my help or need to talk that you can always come to me about it. I will always check in with you, but I’ll try not to invade your space/privacy to do that.”
Knock before entering his room if the door is shut.
Don’t pry into your daughter’s diary. Instead, talk to her about whatever thing you want to know.
However, an exception to this is if you fear that your teen is in danger of some kind. In which case, privacy is less than important than their safety.
Do what is necessary to keep them safe.
For instance, if you suspect your son may be cutting himself, it’s okay to enter the room without knocking to keep him safe.
As your kids step into their teen years, a lot of things will begin to change.
To get along and help your teen develop in a positive direction, you’ll need to adjust your expectations and develop empathy, all the while establishing boundaries.
Developing a close relationship with your teenager and creating a safe, supportive, balanced, and loving environment is as important for you as it is for your teen.
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