Help Your Teen
If I have learned anything from having a teen, it is that parenting them requires some creativity. They often seem to be calling out for help but quickly push away any direct attempts to help them. I would never have thought that navigating their independence would be so difficult. Given the difficulty that I have had, below are five tips that have helped our family during the turbulent teenage years.
- Listen, don’t ask. This has been a lifesaver for us. When you want to know what is going on in your teen’s life, don’t ask direct questions. These will be met with one-word answers. Instead, let them talk. We often do this over dinner. I will start the conversation by asking how school is going or ask what my teen’s plans are for the weekend. This leads me to the second tip!
- Share family meals. I know that this is not always possible daily for all families. There are sports, activities, and work scheduled to contend with. However, making time to share a meal with the family will lead to great conversation, and you will learn a lot about what is going on with your teen. Food seems to have a disarming effect on them!
- Let them know that their feelings are valid. I know that teens, at times, can seem like they are on a rollercoaster of emotions. They seem to move so fast between them that it can be challenging to anticipate and understand. When you can pinpoint their feelings, use simple statements like “I would have felt ____ too, or I understand you are feelng____”. Statements like these will show your teen that you are listening to them and understanding their feelings.
- Controlling your emotions is also key. Sometimes, when Dennis tells me stories, particularly, when he is talking about a disagreement with a friend, I find myself feeling just as angry as he is. I quickly learned that my anger lasts much longer than his anger does. By the end of his story, he has made up with his friend and moved on, and I am left still feeling angry. It is important to remember that their feelings are not yours. It would be best if you tried to keep your feelings and emotions separate.
- Do not be a ‘know it all. Do we have answers to most of our teen’s problems? We sure do! Will they listen if we tell them how to fix their problems? Nope. Instead, when your teen comes to you with a problem, help them learn to problem solve. Ask questions about how they think the problem should be solved. Ask them to think about other times that something similar has happened. When none of those things are working, you can share a life experience and how you dealt with it, but do not tell them that they must do it that way.