by Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT
The teen years can be challenging at times
As a parent, witnessing your child become a teenager can be intimidating to say the least. Determining how to best support your teenager or adolescent can be one of the most challenging issues you’ve faced so far in your relationship with your child.
If you’re facing struggles in your home as your child matures, you’re not alone. And there is a lot of conflicting information out there about how best to support young adults and the potential dangers they face.
Below, you’ll find the three most important keys to having a supportive relationship with your teenager.
Be Available To Listen
It can be easy as a parent to focus on the concerns you have about your children and their behaviors. But when we approach conversations with our teenagers focused primarily on our personal agenda, we can often miss out on the subtleties we need to understand in order to properly care for our children. The best way to ensure you keep the lines of communication open with your teenager, which is a key to keeping them safe, is to create dedicated time to simply listen to them.
Make a concerted effort to listen and be engaged with the interests and concerns your teenager is wrestling with. Many adolescents are hesitant to share personal details with others because of their own insecurities and fear of judgment. Be focused on creating opportunities where you can simply allow your teenager to be heard without expectations or judgments. Set aside special time or plan activities they enjoy and commit to just being an ear for them during those times.
The more you make space for positive communication to happen on a regular basis, the easier it will be to tackle conflicts or issues when the arise.
Nurture the Child within Your Teenager
When one hits adolescence, there is a lot of pressure to “grow up” and let go of the things that brought joy and lightheartedness into your child’s life when they were younger. This pressure can be both internal and external, and can be one of the biggest challenges your teenager faces.
Remembering that your teenager is still quite young and rekindling a playful spirit in your relationship to your child is a great way to create a positive environment for your adolescent. Look for ways to explore and have fun together. Cultivate opportunities to laugh, play, and just let loose, and model those attitudes in your own life.
Many teenagers will also shy away from physical affection from their family members when they get older. The physical affection they experience within their peer groups is also changing dramatically, as new dynamics are introduced with the onset of puberty and dating. This deficit in physical touch can be damaging to your teenager during a vulnerable time in their lives.
Don’t shy away from giving your teenager positive physical touch while being conscious of their boundaries around it. Your teenager is in a process of discovery around their bodies and their needs, and they may reject your hugs or snuggles at times. But that does not mean that you should give them up completely. Remind your adolescent of why you express your affection for them physically in the first place, and that it is important to you.
Respect the Adult Your Teenager is Becoming
Finally, to establish the foundation of a great relationship with your child in the years to come, adolescence is a time to show respect and honor the adult they are becoming. Focus on the positive behaviors and attributes you see in your child and make a focused effort on complimenting them for it. Encourage them to explore their interests and take on increasing responsibility in the activities that engage them.
Most of all, cultivate a sense of hope and excitement about their future. As a parent, it’s easy to be doubtful of your choices and maybe even doubt whether your child has the skills they need to become a responsible adult. Not to mention, the wide range of challenges that teenagers and young adults face today can be overwhelming.
Don’t let anxieties and worries you have about your child’s future get in the way of instilling a sense of resilience and optimism about their future. Even if they insist they don’t care what you think, the truth is your opinions about your children have a profound effect on them. The more confident you are about their abilities and skills, the more confidence they will have.
Build a firm foundation with your teen
In my experience working with families that have adolescents in the home, I have seen that the solutions do not have to be complex. Truly, by focusing on the foundation of any good relationship and putting the time into developing strong bonds with your teenager, you can navigate these years with ease. I hope these tips have been helpful for you! At Relationships Matter Austin, we can provide guidance for you and your teen in building a foundation they will carry with them for their whole life.
Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationships Matter Austin in Austin, Texas. Carlene has successfully worked with teens experiencing challenges and she can assist you with navigating these sometimes tricky years with more confidence as well. To schedule your appointment with Carlene, you can reach her at (512) 994-0432 or request an appointment with her on the Relationships Matter Austin Scheduling Page.