Managing the Teen Years
How can you help your family manage the teen stage with a minimum of turmoil? Ideally, you started modeling ways in which problems are handled by mature people from the time your kids were born. But if you didn’t, kids are very forgiving. They want us to be successful parents because it makes them feel safer and more secure.
It’s never too late to learn to handle problems like the mature adult your teen needs you to be. There are many good books available to help you learn effective skills in conflict resolution, but here are the basics to give you a start:
- Take conflicts seriously but not personally. Every time your teen pushes at a rule or limit isn’t an affront to your person or your authority. It’s a move to independence.
- Learn to appreciate your child’s personality even during its most exaggerated moments. Yelling at a yelling teen never helps. Stepping back to appreciate just how passionately your child cares about the issue at hand gives you a much more useful place to begin your problem-solving together.
- Refuse to deal with any issue of real importance when emotions are running high. Tell your teen that you understand that the issue is of extreme importance and that you want to deal with it accordingly. Ask that you both take a few minutes or hours, if necessary apart so that you can each identify your real concerns.
- Respect your child’s growing ability to reason and present ideas. If you’ve already decided that the answer is “no” whenever the teen wants some new freedom, your child will soon give up on even trying to talk with you. Allow for the very real possibility that your teen has a point.
- Don’t get blocked by either/or thinking. Very few issues come down to a solution that is either one way or another. Look for places where you can agree.
- Choose your battles carefully. There may be a few things that are simply not negotiable in your home. Keep the number of these issues to a minimum. For example, in some homes Friday night dinner is mandatory. In others, it is going to church. In others, there are standards about how people talk to each other. If kids see that you will work with them on most things, they will usually grant you the things you feel are sacred.
- Remember that compromise doesn’t have to mean that everyone is equally happy. It only means that for the sake of the relationship, both will give a little or even a lot. If it’s out of balance this time, you’ll even it out another time.
- Your child really is getting older and more experienced. Remember to take stock periodically. A rule that was necessary a year ago may not be so important now. Let your child see you loosen up your rules as she or he demonstrates growth in maturity.
- Give lots of recognition to those moments when you are proud, pleased, and delighted so that your child regularly hears about what she or he is doing right. Remember that random hugs, taps, and little moments of physical contact are as important now as they ever were for communicating love, approval, and connection.
Enjoy these years. Soon your teen will be leaving home. The daily comings and goings, the random moments of closeness, and the intimacy of living together will be over all too soon.
In summary, when your children reach the teen years:
- Take the attitude that the teen years are another delightful stage, not an ordeal to get through.
- Refine your sense of humor.
- Fine-tune your own negotiation skills.
- Treasure this last time of living together.