The teenage years are some of the most complicated for our children. Bodily changes, hormonal swings, and new feelings all make it an important time for your child to have your support. But teens often either don’t know how to talk to you or even may not initially want to, so most of the responsibility will fall on you as a parent. Here are a few things to keep in mind when reaching out to your teen.
#1 Keep an eye on self-esteem
Self-esteem can be a particularly tricky issue for teens, especially girls. Make sure she always knows you’re proud of her, win or lose, succeed or fail. Negative self-image can cause depression and eating disorders, so talk to her about the pressures she might be feeling to look, eat, or dress a certain way. Pay attention to how she carries herself — does she walk tall, or does she keep her head down most of the time? Give her a sincere compliment whenever you get the chance, even if it’s something you think she knows. A simple, “You’ve been doing really excellent in school this term, way to go!” can make all the difference to a teen who may feel insecure.
#2 Don’t let arguments escalate out of control
Realistically, there are going to be a few fights between you and your teen; it’s the nature of any important relationship to have a disagreement now and then. As the parent, it’s crucial that you maintain control of these situations and don’t let them exceed your power. Don’t display outwardly aggressive behaviour like invading personal space or staring her directly in the eye. Be mindful of your body language — which can sometimes drown out your words — as well as the words you use and your tone.
Stay calm. If the argument appears to be escalating, tell her you should both take some time to step away and gather yourselves. Once you’ve both calmed down the conversation will usually be a lot more productive. Keep in mind that sometimes, a teen (or anyone, for that matter) just needs to vent; it doesn’t mean your efforts are wasted or that she won’t open up to you later.
#3 Find fun ways to connect
Your relationship with your child should extend past suppertime and morning car rides to school. Just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together, so find entertaining ways to bond. Go to a sports event, see a movie, or have dinner together. You can even be workout partners; take a hike through the woods to get some fresh air or go for a stress-relieving swim at the local health club. She needs to know that you don’t just check in when things are obviously wrong, but that you’re always there — good times and bad.
#4 Show appreciation
We all want to feel like what we do matters and our hard work is noticed, so don’t assume your child knows how proud and grateful you are. Make it a point to take notice of her good habits — like how she always does the dishes without asking — and thank her for them. If she’s a star pupil, don’t let her good marks go unnoticed simply because you’re used to them. Celebrate a high exam score with her favourite meal or a day trip somewhere special. If you get an attitude when asking for a favour, sincerely thank her for helping you out and taking time out of her day. Remember, just because she doesn’t have a job doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a hectic workload! Recognizing all that she does can build her self confidence and create a stronger, happier bond between you.
Don’t let the isolating teenage behaviour create a gap between you and your child. Make the extra effort to reach out to her and be present in her life, and soon she’ll find the courage to come to you on her own.
Lisa Marshall is the fonder of AussieWell.net, a go-to blog for any and all info on moving to or living in Australia with an emphasis on safety, wellness and overall lifestyle advice.