By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

 

Teens need a new kind of parent.  During a time of life that is ruled by uncertainty and change, teens crave the unconditional love of their parents, but they also need their parents coach, guide, and teach. They need a different kind of support as they navigate their way toward independence.

Each month, I’ll be sharing a key parenting practice so you can step into this new role with confidence and awareness.

 

February Parenting Tip- Open Communication 

 

The key to any successful relationship is communication. But when it comes to parenting teens, communication can feel shallow or sometimes, downright disrespectful. It’s hard to know when or if you’re getting through to your teen!

Does this sound familiar?

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“Can we talk about _____________?”

“Why?!?! UGH! Whatever mom. You’re so nosy! I can take care of it myself.”

Or perhaps your well-meaning questions and heartfelt comments are met with eye-rolls, sighs, or no acknowledgement at all.

Teenagers are starting to break away from their parents and seek more freedom and independence. They crave a sense of power and control, and they assert this sense of power in their explosive or dismissive responses. Don’t take it personally. Instead, consider shifting they way you approach your teen and inviting in a new way of communication.

Try these tips for a more insightful and connected conversation:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Teens are much more likely to open up if you ask them questions that require more than one word answers. For example, instead of “How was school today?” You could ask, “What was the best part of your day?” Consider reframing questions so that they invite reflection, like questions that begin with “what,” and address events or people that are interesting to your teen.
  2. Respond thoughtfully. Well-meaning parents tend to respond to their teen’s shares with additional questions or a personal connection. “When I was your age…” This is guaranteed to stop your teen from talking. Although it’s not your intention, it sends a message that you weren’t listening. Always take time to respond thoughtfully to your teen. Avoid correcting or judging, and instead, reflect back what you heard. Consider how you can demonstrate empathy and understanding.
  3. Be creative. It can be hard for teens to open up to their parents. They may fear punishment, judgment, or simply can’t find the words or courage to speak up. Offering an alternative way of communicating can help.   Try offering your teen a journal, where she can share her questions or concerns. Make a promise to keep the journal private and respond within the day.
  4. Get active. Make a date with your teen to do something you both enjoy. Go on a hike, take a cooking class, go shopping, or explore a new restaurant. Spending time with your teen shows her that she can be close with you without you asking her a million questions or calling her out for something.
  5. Acknowledge and praise. The old saying, Catch ‘em being good, still rings true during the teen years. In fact, despite your teen’s too-cool attitude, your acknowledgment and praise may mean more now than ever. When you praise your teen’s qualities instead of her accomplishments, you help boost her self-esteem and make a deposit in your relationship bank account.

Parenting is one of the most fulfilling, delightful, exhausting, and stressful jobs you will ever do.   However, with support, new tools, and an understanding of what your teen needs, you will be able to truly enjoy your parenting journey and learn to love the teen years!

 

 

January Parenting Tip-  Be Present and Calm

 

Despite their deep desire to be independent and free, teens appreciate a meaningful connection with a caring adult. As a parent, you are their number one caring adult and the way you show up matters.

Through my conversations with teens, I’ve learned that they are deeply appreciative when their parents are present and calm.

So how can you practice calm and present parenting, especially when parenting a teen?

 

  1. Breathe. The simple act of taking a deep breath invites the pause that is necessary for lowering the body’s stress response so you can reply thoughtfully and calmly to your teen. In fact, research shows that taking a deep breath helps you stay calm even when your children are pushing you to the edge. Deep, conscious breathing actually causes positive changes in the brain. As you take a deep breath, you can consider what your teen needs and how you can support her for success. It also teaches your teen how to effectively handle her emotional reactions.
  2. Heart to heart listening. You may be an expert in multi-tasking but teens can tell when you’re distracted.   Make it a point to give your teen your undivided attention. Turn off the radio, phone, or television and tune into the present moment. Look your teen in the eye and face her heart to heart. Show her that you are interested in what she has to say. As you do, you will gain a deeper understanding of who she is and what matters to her, and she will respond by opening up more.
  3. Time out. When things get heated, give yourself permission to take a time out. Remember that most situations do not require an immediate response or consequence. Telling your teen that you need time to consider your best next steps or think about what she has told you, demonstrates your courage to solve conflicts in a respectful and non-reactive manner. It also sends a message that you want to show up for her when you are more clear and calm.
  4. Self Care. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Parenting requires a huge amount of energy and dedication. It’s essential to carve out time to do the things you love. Foster supportive friendships. Protect your precious time by saying no to engagements or people that drain your energy. Nurture yourself in every way possible so you can be strong, calm, present and supportive for your teen.

Parenting is one of the most fulfilling, delightful, exhausting, and stressful jobs you will ever do.   However, with support, new tools, and an understanding of what your teen needs, you will be able to truly enjoy your parenting journey and learn to love the teen years!