Parenting a Teenager: Creating a Close Relationship with Your Teen
Parenting a teenager ...
... can be daunting. But don't let your child take the lead and withdraw from him because he has withdrawn from you. Doing so, could cost you your relationship. In this article, I will give you some important tips for staying connected with your teen.
Before I dole out advice, let's take a moment to put adolescence into perspective. Think back to your teen years and you'll probably recall that it was a confusing time. Your body was developing, your hormones raging and there you were, perched precariously between childhood and adulthood. One false step and your parents would treat you like a child. Even more frightening were the times when the adults around you assumed that you were ready to deal with situations you felt ill-equipped to handle. If an image of a gangly teenager walking a tightrope comes to mind, this is exactly what it's like—adolescence means taking steps—some tentative, some hugely impulsive—from the known, comfortable world of childhood into the beckoning, yet foreboding world of the adult.
Parenting a Teenager Advice:
- Stop talking and start listening. Teens need to feel that you hear them—not just what they say—but the hopes and fears behind their words. For instance, when you ask your son or daughter how their day was, don't rush past, half-listening to his expected and reflexively uttered "fine."
People do this all the time. They ask questions as a nicety when they could care less about the answer. You could answer, "I'm dying" and they wouldn't hear you because they've already moved on. In a similar way, your teen may feel like something is dying inside, but is unable or unwilling to tell you, especially if you have a habit of brushing him off or half-listening. Remember, parenting a teenager requires listening—you can't have a relationship with someone you never have a meaningful conversation with.
- Talk to your teen about drugs, sex and alcohol. Rather than issuing edicts, have a conversation about each subject over time. Make yourself available for questions your teen might have and be willing to explore his insecurities or fears. Talk about peer pressure and how it can compel a person to do something that goes against their values. Parenting a teenager means you make sure you understand your teen's views on these important issues, rather than just making yours known. Share stories about what happens when teens participate in certain behaviors from your junior high and high school years. Do this in an engaging way, rather than in a way designed to "teach a lesson." Listen as your teen shares stories about kids from school.
- Let your teen teach you things. This makes him feel valued for what he knows. It also give him a sense of competency and authority and creates a balance of power in your relationship. For instance, recently, my eldest son has been teaching me how to play basketball. The other day, he taught me how to do a lay-up and dribble without looking at the ball. Although a lot of people would think this was no big deal, the secrets my son has taught me have improved my skill at basketball (which has a l-o-n-g way to go) and made me feel more confident on the court. Together, we laugh about what a geek I was when we first started out. This is bonding, folks, the glue of all close relationships.
Although this "parenting a teenager" advice may seem simple, its effects are profound. As you apply, you will see that the go the distance in helping you create a close connection with your teen.
Note: If your teen seems unusually defiant, get help. An excellent program developed by a therapist who has helped transform the lives of countless teens in private therapy and at school has recently been adapted for home use. It's called Total Transformation and will show you how to teach your teen the coping skills that will help him manage stress, curb unhealthy impulses, treat others with respect and make better decisions.
About the author:
Laura Ramirez is the author of
Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting
. This award-winning book is the only parenting book that combines ancient native ideas (like stewardship) with heart-centered psychology to show parents how to raise children to develop their natural strengths and stay aligned with their spiritual nature. This book turns parenting into a journey of discovery for parent and child. It will open your heart and mind.
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