The teen years are tough. There are shifts in peer groups, interests, emotions, habits, hobbies, and much more. There is also peer pressure, and unfortunately, feeling the need to fit permeates everywhere — especially in the classroom. Plus, with the prominence of social media and influences, teens are now more pressured than every trying to ‘keep up’ while also dealing with everyday social and academic stress.
While this time sounds bleak, adolescence also comes with great joy, independence, self-efficacy, and truly finding oneself. If you’re a parent of a teenager, don’t stress. Although there might be some distance between you and your child during these years, that doesn’t mean you can’t support your teen.
From stepping up to finding the right words, learning their needs to simply being present and available for them, here are a few tips for engaging with your (almost adult!) child in an intentional and meaningful way.
This is probably the most important thing you can do to support your teen: take initiative.
Participate in your child’s life in whatever way(s) possible. Attend their sporting events or musical performances. Ask them about their days. Offer to take them to and from an activity or have their friends over. Make time in your schedule to just be around them (walk, coffee date, movie night, etc.)
You may not like the music they listen to, the activities they enjoy, the way they dress, or the friends they spend out with. . . but don’t focus on those things. Remember that you, too, were a teenager once and part of growing up is rebelling, pushing back, and paving your own way.
Something else you can consider is finding places that match their passions, hobbies, or needs. Whether that’s a school, treatment and mental health center like Eva Carlston Academy, or extracurricular activity, if you recognize what your child needs and find places that support those needs, it will lead to a better relationship in the long run.
Read your teen’s body language and pay attention to what they say. (And do this without passing judgement!) Communication is key but oftentimes this is tough during the teen years. If you do have conversations with your teen, be thankful for these opportunities to enrich their life and be present. If you don’t, try to create moments where these conversations can happen: to and from an event, at the dinner table, taking the dog for a walk, right before bed, etc.
And when you talk, observe your adolescent’s actions. What does their body language share when they’re talking about someone or something from school? Are they different around their friends? What seems to make them excited?
Respect their boundaries and be aware that they will likely push you further away if you try to impose yourself on them. As you have these conversations, take note of warning symptoms like depression or anxiety. No matter how much you want to shout, never verbally or physically attack your teenager, especially if you notice something is off. Instead, try to take a few deep breaths (encouraging them to do so as well!) and remind yourself of your purpose – to be closer with your child.
Teenagers act out in rebellion or without properly considering the repercussions for a variety of reasons, and oftentimes these reasons have nothing to do with you as their parent! Despite your greatest efforts as a parent, your adolescent may still rebel. Simply put, they are being teens. It has been demonstrated that a teen’s brain is actively forming beliefs and values. Unaware of it, they are unintentionally trying new things and testing their boundaries. Don’t worry. Love your adolescent without conditions. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, through these difficult times, they will depend on you.
Accept your teen’s interests, pay attention to their signals, and never stop loving them. It may feel like you’re ‘losing them’ or that your affection isn’t ‘working’ but trust that your child sees your care. You are doing the right thing – remember, it’s about about being present and loving them without restriction.