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.

April Parenting Tip-  Supporting Confidence 

Your teen was not born confident. Confidence is a learned skill. It goes hand in hand with your teen’s ability to make wise decisions, overcome challenges, and have a positive attitude.   Confidence is a quality that helps teens (and adults) successfully navigate life.

 

Find out more about your teen’s confidence by starting a conversation. Share these tips, ask her what she already practices and what actions she can take to harness even more  self-confidence.

  • Be your own role model. Be proud of yourself. Celebrate your daily wins. Identify your values and allow them to guide your actions.
  • Express yourself. Process your feelings by writing down what you think and feel. Then, respectfully share your thoughts and feeling with others. Practice asking for what you need, rather than demanding it.
  • Challenge yourself. Step out of your Comfort Zone and into your Courage Zone. Try something new, whether a new food or new sport, and persevere through the discomfort.
  • Shift your focus. Stop worrying about what others think of you. Instead, focus on what you think of you.
  • Quiet the Gremlin. The Gremlin is that negative, persistent voice in your head. It’s the voice of comparison and not-enough-ness. Instead of listening to the Gremlin, think positive, helpful thoughts.
  • Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Instead of getting hung up on what you did wrong, begin to see perceived failure as an opportunity to change, grow, and learn.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t waste your energy comparing yourself to others. Recognize your amazing gifts and the amazing gifts of others. You will find yourself more motivated and energized.

Remember self-confidence is not the same as arrogance. Confidence comes from a quiet place of inner-knowing and radical self-acceptance. Arrogance is rooted in neediness and insecurity. Arrogant people tend to try to impress others and build themselves up by putting others down. Confident people don’t seek approval or adoration. They are able to authentically honor others while remaining secure in themselves.

Self-confidence is an asset. Everyday, make a choice to nurture it and watch how your optimism and ability to handle life’s challenges also improve.

March Parenting Tip- Listening

Listening. It sounds simple, right?  You may even be thinking, I DO listen to my teen, but my teen doesn’t say much or when I try to listen, my teen lashes out!  

If you’re like most parents, you listen to your teen with the intention of gathering information. How was their day? What homework do they have? What’s going on with their friends? For you, asking questions and gathering information are necessary to offering support and showing interest. To your teen, your questions feel invasive, overwhelming, and set off frustration. As a result, their communication becomes short, indifferent, or flat out rude.

But what if there was another way to gather the information you seek, offer your support, and show your teen that you really do understand?

Imagine what it would be like to have a deep conversation with your teen. A conversation where your voice is heard and your input valued. Imagine having a more meaningful connection with your teen.

These are the results of Level Three Listening: Listening From Your Teen’s Point of View. The purpose of listening at this level is not to gather information. It does not involve asking a lot of questions or sharing your own teen experiences. This type of listening is deep, soulful, and genuine. It requires pause, reflection, focus, and an open heart and mind. It calls on you to clear your mind and listen without judgment or advice, but with empathy and love. When you listen in this way, you are imagining what it is like to be your teen at school, in sports, or with friends. You are honoring your teen with being fully seen and heard. When you listen in this way, your teen will feel understood, appreciated, and become open to sharing more.  When you make time for heartfelt conversation your teen will know your intentions are genuine and compassionate.

Follow these five steps to sharpen your listening skills and practice Listen From Your Teen’s Point of View:

  1. Remove distractions. Listening from your teen’s point of view requires eye contact and tuning into their feelings.
  2. Erase your preconceived notions. Do not make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Listen with a curious, open mind.
  3. Step into their story. Imagine what it’s like to be your son or daughter and feel what he or she is feeling. Try to connect at an emotional level.
  4. Reflect their goodness. Demonstrate your empathy through your body language and facial expression. Reflect the emotion you see. Show your teen that you are tuning in at a soul level.
  5. Find comfort in the silence. Remember silence is a form of sharing and connection. Effective listening invites space between thoughts, words, and responses.

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!