Parenting teenagers can be very difficult but also so rewarding. Let’s look at how to strengthen your relations with your teen.
Teenagers are funny creatures. They can be happy-go-lucky and delightful one minute and moody and sullen the next. One minute, asking your teen to help you unload the dishwasher is no big deal, and the next they lose their minds, acting as if this single request might literally break them. Teenagers can be a tough nut to crack.
I admit- we aren’t in the teenage years yet. My oldest is staring down 12, and we are taking each day as it comes. She is mostly happy, but she sleeps a lot more than she used to and is more easily annoyed by her younger sisters than ever before. With each eye roll, a gesture that I’m seeing more frequently, I try to remind myself I, too, was once an angst-y teen and I won’t be the first, or the last, parent to weather this unpredictable storm.
Cultivating a strong relationship with your teen: setting your expectations
I’ve started reading articles on how to keep the lines of communication with my daughter now so that, hopefully, our relationship never becomes something that needs to be repaired. I hope to be the strong example of an upstanding citizen who is both stern but kind that she needs. In order to keep our relationship strong, I’m trying to keep these guideposts in mind:
- I am her parent, not her friend. We can be friends when she is grown and raising her own kids.
- I need to set the example I want her to follow. She is always watching.
- I must remain calm. She will have wild, unruly emotions, and that’s okay. I don’t need to react to everything she says or does.
- I will make my expectations for her clear. When I set clear expectations it will be easier for her to know what is right and what is wrong in any situation.
- I can respect my daughter’s boundaries. She will set them, and I might not like them. But I know she will want boundaries and privacy, and I will need to be flexible here.
Strengthening your relationship with your teen: creating rules and boundaries
Although I have figured out what I can do to build a relationship with my burgeoning teen on my end, I will also need to figure out what can I do to make sure she is comfortable enough to talk to me but also understands she has to respect my rules and boundaries. Right now she and I share a pretty great rapport- she is neither embarrassed by me nor annoyed by me. Sure, there are eye rolls, and comments about how “I have no idea what’s cool anymore,” but so far, she tells me everything and doesn’t mind hanging out with me.
But rules and boundaries will become more important as the years start to roll on. Things like curfew will be made clear. There will be rules about where she can go and with whom she can be alone. There will be rules about her cell phone and her Friday nights. All meant to protect her and keep her safe.
My husband, for years, has told me I’m a terrible “bad cop.” I’m trying to grow thicker skin now in preparation for the years ahead. He regularly reminds me that I need to “make the rules clear and the consequences clearer” and then follow through with punishment if necessary. It isn’t easy to be the enforcer of the rules, in my opinion, but it is a requirement of parenting a teenager. I just keep reminding myself: I need to be clear about the rules and the consequences. Then if the rules get broken, I have to follow through with punishment, no matter what.
Strengthening your relationship with your teen: be a good listener
If I start to feel my daughter pulling away, I’m going to take my mom’s advice and “just listen.” Such easy advice to dole out but so much harder to execute, as it turns out. So often I want to judge. Or fix. Or tell my daughter why she is wrong or what she needs to do differently. And sometimes she isn’t coming to me for an answer, she just needs someone to listen.
So, in all of my reading I’ve been doing about how to parent a teenager, one of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve read over and over again is to practice being a good listener. Just listen. Don’t judge or belittle or fix or even react. Just listen. Because when a teenager feels heard but not judged, they are more likely to be forthcoming. And getting a teen to talk is half the battle.
For more advice on how to parent a teenager, I’ve found these articles particularly inspiring!