As a parent, your personal development undergoes major changes. When you see your children making the same decisions you made, or even when they make decisions you didn’t make, it can be strange to know how you fit into all that. What can you do to make sure that your personal development continues, when you see your children developing themselves? It’s been awhile since mine were teenagers, but I recall spending more time helping them with their personal development. Now as I reflect, I realize there are ways to continue your personal development and help them grow.
One of the ways to continue working on yourself is to work on your relationship with your kids. Teenagers are especially stressed, trying to fit in, figure out who they are, or what they like or don’t like. It was definitely easier when they are toddlers. They have no problem telling you they need you. They run up to you and throw their arms around you. But teenagers … not so much? Here are some tips for learning to deal with your kids as they grow into the teen years.
The first thing you need to do is to give them some independence. A lot of parents have a difficult time with this, but the truth is that your kids need independence. That doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries of any kind. No, I’m not talking about complete independence; they need freedom within boundaries. As they make mistakes, it is going to be clear that you can help them, but you should let them make their mistakes. This is very hard … watching your kids make mistakes and as much as you want to try tell your child everything to do, it truly is better to let them learn from their mistakes. The exception here is if they are in physical danger. One thing I did with mine was to calmly discuss why they had the particular outcome and what would they have done differently if they could. When the kids become adults, they have a difficult time making decisions if they have not been allowed to grow in their decision making skills through learning.
Next, find a time to talk with your teenager when you are both relaxed. Teenagers typically don’t want to spend much time with their parents. This is normal and you shouldn’t view that as an insult. Think back to your time as a teenager, it was a time of tremendous physical changes, new expectations, and fear. Know that time for them to reflect and get to know who they are is normal. However, if you pay attention, there are times during the day when your kids are more open to discussing things with you. It might be right before bed, it might be after dinner, while you are driving somewhere ….you have to find that magic hour and make sure you listen when they talk to you. Listening is KEY here. To feel safe and confident in talking with you, you must remain objective and non-judgmental. Trust me, this is HARD. Really be with them in the moment and listen; don’t think about what you want to say next.
Talk to them about what interests them. You have to treat your teen like you would anyone else you want to talk with. Even though their music may hurt your ears, you need to be willing to talk to them to find out what they find enjoyable about the music and what they like about it. If you show your support for their interests, they are going to be more likely to share their interests with you. And a big secret here … you can be honest with your child. Let them know that although you don’t like their genre of music, you respect their right to listen to it. A boundary here could be the volume at which the music is played.
Be careful about disapproving comments. Sometimes, one disapproving comment will make your kid clam up for months. Try to remain positive even when you are screaming inside to yell. If you must say something negative, make sure that you add two or three other positive statements. This is really important, because if your teen thinks you are always criticizing their behavior, likes or friends, they will not want to talk to you about anything anymore.
Teenagers can be difficult to talk to, even if you’re the best parent in the world. I found communicating with mine to be invaluable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and there were moments of disagreements. You and your teen can get along really well, even if it doesn’t seem like that sometimes. Communication, respect, and acceptance is key.