Once cheery and amenable, junior suddenly seems withdrawn, rebellious and wants to spend less and less time with you. Since you want the best for your child, drawing the line between respecting their privacy and remaining vigilant of their activities can be tricky.
“Individuation, referring to the process of forming a stable personality, is an important part of the tween, teen, and young adulthood years,” explains Teo Seok Bee, senior manager at TOUCH Family. “This is when a teenager would want to be treated like an adult, wants to be in control and is seeking their own identity.”
As such, conflicts arise when a teenager wants to do things their own way and challenge parental authority.
Teo notes, “Parents who want to protect their child from danger or who are used to making all kinds of decisions for their child may now find that their children are no longer taking ‘no’ for an answer.”
SmartParents has rounded up strategies to make the job of parenting your adolescent a little easier.
“Listen attentively and connect (not correct) with your teenager, not jumping to conclusions. It is better to be understanding than to be right.”
#1. Keep calm
However, parents need to first and foremost remain calm when dealing with a teenager, Teo advises. For example, if your teenager comes home and announces that he or she wants a tattoo, don’t scream at them.
Being reactive only alienates them further, and they’ll be less likely to share things with you as they know that all you do is to object and yell at them.
Instead, keep calm and rationalise why they might want to do something. Getting a tattoo might mean fitting in with their peers or expressing their identity. If your opinion differs, talk to them honestly and level-headedly, without getting emotional or aggressive in your tone.
#2. Listen to them
As such, make things less about “winning” an argument with them, and more about understanding their point of view. So, rather than automatically judging their decisions as “bad” or rushing to give them advice, show that you are interested in listening to their thoughts and feelings.
Do this by giving them your full attention, don’t do other tasks like housework or looking at your phone. Display attentive body language as well, such as looking into their eyes or nodding at appropriate moments.
#3. Validate their emotions
Part of being a good listener is also validating your teenager’s emotions, and letting them know that how they feel matters.
Teo elaborates, “For example, instead of belittling how they feel, say something like, ‘I can see you are really upset and hurting’ or ‘It must have been a difficult time for you’. If possible, offer them a drink or even a hug as well.”
Once your teen feels validated, they’ll be more willing to open up and display their vulnerability. Once they do that, be sure to react non-judgmentally, and give them time to vent or release their frustrations.
#4. Learn their lingo and be familiar with issues that interest/trouble them
It may be hard to keep up with the latest music or fashion that teens are into these days. But if you really want to relate to them, make an effort to learn their lingo and find out what piques their interest, Teo suggests.
If you’ve ever felt confused about something your teen has said, or read a text from them you didn’t understand, TOUCH’s cheatsheet on youth lingo might just come in handy.
Do also enforce family time, so that you can bond with each other over a convivial setting, like having dinner or watching a movie together. Make an effort to participate in activities that interest them as well, such as accompanying them to their favourite band’s concert or playing the latest trending game on the computer together.
Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your teen ― keep in mind that the both of you are only human and mistakes are bound to happen. Of course, be firm in laying down the ground rules.
#5. Call for a time-out when necessary
As much as you want to avoid a conflict, conversations may inevitably turn into arguments at times. If you sense that both of you are losing your cool and the situation is about to escalate, call for a time-out.
Teo suggests, “Say something like, ‘I think we are both getting heated up, it may be better that we take a time-out now and cool down first. Let’s talk again at an agreed time. Of course, remember to ‘time-in’ at the agreed time to finish the conversation.”
Mind your language if you sense that things are getting too heated. Hurtful words can wound a teenager, and may stir up feelings of anger and resentment.
#6. Remember that the teenage years will pass
As challenging as raising a teenager might be, remember that these turbulent times will pass, Teo asserts.
Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your teen ― keep in mind that the both of you are only human and mistakes are bound to happen. Of course, be firm in laying down the ground rules, such as observing curfews and the need to treat peers and elders with respect.
But when mistakes do happen, continue to love them unconditionally. After all, you were once a rebellious teenager, too!
Warning signs of trouble to look out for
Every teenager has their fair share of ups and downs, but if yours exhibits the following warning signs, it may be time to seek help. These include:
* Losing interest in everyday things and refusing to do even the things that he/she normally enjoys.
* Refusing to go to school or is producing declining grades.
* Suicidal thoughts or making comments such as, “I want to end it all, no point going on” or “It is all so meaningless”.
* Being unusually quiet or not his/her normal self, downcast or showing extreme fatigue.
How to help your troubled teen
If the troubling signs continue for more than six weeks, Teo advises that you connect with your child, and also show empathy and patience. She recommends that you:
* Connect with your child and lend an ear to encourage them to reveal what is troubling them.
* Be calm when you learn of the issue troubling your teenager.
* Be available to support and help them, instilling hope. Provide the refuge that your child can turn to anytime.
* Talk to their teachers or seek professional help, if needed.
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