The teenage years are filled with change. Body, mind, and feelings are maturing quickly. Teens are also learning about who they are and who they want to become. To do that, they need to try new things. But that means taking risks. Because their brains are still developing, they are extra sensitive to emotion and their impulse control and decision-making skills are still being formed. This puts teens at higher risk for alcohol, drug, and tobacco use, high-risk sexual behavior, and risky driving choices. They are also more likely to experience mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. Add in the stress that parents are under and conflict is sure to ensue.
While communication can be difficult at times and conflict may abound, there are strategies that can help improve your relationship and mitigate conflict.
Build a Positive Relationship
Creating a positive, trusting relationship with your kids is key. It makes them more likely to listen to your advice and follow your rules. Focusing more on praise, support, and incentives and less on negative things like yelling, criticizing, or nagging is effective. Listen to them without judgment—even the hard things. Listen to what they are thinking and feeling. Show interest and concern over their problems. That helps them feel more connected with you.
It is important to stay calm when they share, and respect differences of opinion. That helps build trust. It also gives you the chance to teach them how to problem solve. Sharing your experiences rather than lecturing helps build better communication.
You can also build stronger bonds with your teen by recognizing and rewarding their positive behaviors. Give them opportunities to learn new things and tell them when they are doing well.
It is also a good idea to have your kids be a part of the discussion about expectations for the family. That helps create positive, open communication and keeps everyone clear on the rules.
Keep in Touch
As your kids age, you are with them less often. That makes building trust and good communication important. Your ability to know what is going on in their lives largely depends on what they will share with you.
How can you monitor what they do that will not destroy your bond or connection? Conversations do not have to be face-to-face and may be more likely to happen in a car, via text or bringing home food for them and their friends and having casual conversations. Short texts and responding to something they post on social media are also positive approaches. Attend their events, know their friends, and be positive and upbeat in your interactions with them.
Set Limits and Consequences
Parents can also help teens by setting clear limits and expectations ahead of time and consistently following through with consequences.
Start telling your child early on what your expectations are about drinking, drugs, driving, and sexual behavior. Encourage them to eat healthy and get enough exercise. And keep talking about your expectations and values throughout their teen years. Be consistent with praise and rewards when they follow the rules. Consequences can mean different things depending on the teen. It can be helpful and increase trust when you ask your teen ahead of time what they think would be good consequences for them if they violate a rule. This conversation helps build your relationship.
The teen years can be challenging but with some adjustments with the way you communicate and interact, your relationship can be less rocky and stronger.