Tips for Parents to Improve their Relationship with their Teens.
Going through the phase of adolescence can be complicated and overwhelming for most parents and the rest of family members.
If you find yourself in the position of not knowing what to do for your teenager to communicate with you, want to go out with you as a family, and struggling with seeing him/her want more autonomy then you are not alone and you would benefit from reading this article.
During my professional experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I've learned the basic Dos and Don'ts for parents to improve their communication skills and relationship with their teenager. In this article you will be learning useful tips and strategies to implement on your daily life to develop a solid and healthy bond with your adolescent son/daughter. I'll be first discussing general information regarding what to expect from teenage stage of life so you could have a better understanding of how to deal with this transition in a peaceful and comfortable manner.
What to expect from teenagers:
According to Erik Erickson (developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst), there are 8 fundamental stated of life that we all go through. It is important to be aware of this stages so we can have a better understanding of how to deal and cope with certain situations and or changes through different life staged.
1.1 Hope: trust vs. mistrust (oral-sensory, infancy, 0–2 years)
1.2 Will: autonomy vs. shame and doubt (early childhood, 2–4 years)
1.3 Purpose: initiative vs. guilt (locomotor-genital, preschool, 4–5 years)
1.4 Competence: industry vs. inferiority (latency, school age, 5–12 years)
1.5 Fidelity: identity vs. role confusion (adolescence, 13–19 years)
1.6 Love: intimacy vs. isolation (early adulthood, 20-39 years)
1.7 Care: generativity vs. stagnation (adulthood, 40–64 years)
1.8 Wisdom: ego integrity vs. despair (maturity, 65 – death)
As you can see, identity vs. role confusion starts at age 13 and ends at age 19. This stage means that teenagers go through an identity crises stage that leads them to want to try different outfits, mindsets, become rebellious, sex orientation confusion, and might even face depression due to hormonal changes. It is not uncommon to see teens dressing in an eccenctric way and or/ to see him wanting to imitate their peers since they want to belong to society and fit it. Having said that, it is very important that they surround themselves with mentally stable and responsible peers.
The adolescent mind is essentially a mind or moratorium, a psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood, and between the morality learned by the child, and the ethics to be developed by the adult (Erikson, 1963, p. 245). Adolescence is a crucial stage in life since it’s a transition from childhood to adulthood and it can bring feelings of pressure and overwhelm to the teen because it a phase where they look into their future, career goals, housing, job, etc. It is important for the adolescent to know that it is normal to feel anxiety and fears about what to expect as an adult. It is also normal for adolescent to feel uncomfortable with their physical appearance since they are still in the developmental process and are still growing up, so they need to feel comfortable seeing the changes their body is making. Also, as mentioned before, since they want to fit in, they might compare themselves to their peers and feel frustrated that they don't look like the rest. It is important to work on teen’s self-esteem and to let them know that it is normal to go through physical appearances changes.
Now, we are moving forwards to the Do List
1) Listen to your teen, avoid judging and try to show interest in what they have to say.
2) Try to offer advice and not negative criticism every time they tell you about an idea or situation they might be facing. Sometimes they are not looking for advice and all they want is to share their feelings with someone they trust.
3) Avoid prohibiting and saying no without a reasonable explanation. We cannot expect a teenager to accept no for an answer if they don't even know the reasons why. Every time we offer an explanation as of why they cannot do certain things we are teaching them to think critically and to not just "go with the flow". It is important that we teach our adolescents to make rational decisions based on logic and reasoning.
4) Offer the opportunity for his/her peers to come over your house and have fun in the pool, backyard, BBQ, playing video-games, or watching movies. It is convenient to know his/her peers and to look like a flexible and friendly parent. Instead, if you prohibit your teen from having fun with their friends, they will find the way to meet them behind your back and it will damage your relationship and trust.
5) Give them physical and emotional space. Adolescence is a stage of life where the teen requires time and space to wonder and explore on their own. If we insist in keeping them under our skirt, they will never be able to be autonomous/independent, to learn, grow, and mature into a responsible adult. Enclosing them, and making them share all the time with family members will only push them away.
6) Always offer advice even if you feel they are not listening, something will stick in their minds for the rest of their lives.
I truly hope you can find this article helpful! Feel free to ask questions and or/ suggest different topics related to mental health that you would like to know more information about.