Parenting a Teenager

Written By

Kannika Iyengar

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I have seen many parents approaching raising teenagers as an ordeal; believing that this is going to be the worst phase of parenting and that they can only watch helplessly as their children change into unpredictable monsters. Well, if this is your approach, you have set yourself and your teen up for a number of miserable years as you are only looking for the negatives in the relationship and are too clouded to see the positives.

So what can you, as a parent, do to help your child successfully navigate his / her teenage years?

  • Remember that parenting a teenager doesn’t start at the age of twelve or thirteen. Your work in building a solid relationship between you and your child should have started much earlier. If the relationship was not built earlier, it is certainly difficult to do so now, with all the added challenges. There is no miracle solution.
  • This is the time to start becoming a friend to your child and not always a parent. It is not easy to do this because you are wired to be there to protect your child and prevent them from doing anything harmful, but you need to let go. Your teen will learn from their experiences and mistakes and this will make them a well-balanced adult. If you continue hovering around them, giving instructions and directions – you alienate them and don’t allow them to make their own decisions.
  • Don’t crowd on your child – if he / she says they want space (they may not know what this means) give them the space. They may not want to be with the family at all times, like they used to when they were children, and it is alright. If they want to stay away from a family occasion, don’t push them too hard. But make sure they attend at least a few events.
  • Negotiate with your teen – This is the stage to have a conversation with your teen about what you want them to do and what they want to do. Your rule will not work all the time now and being strict with your teen will have negative consequences. But if you negotiate with them, you will both come up with results you are happy with and the experience will not be a negative one for both of you.
  • Most parents tell me that their teenager no longer talks to them nor does he / she confide in them. It is here that you must keep time aside that is convenient to your teenager and not just to you. If you want them to talk, then the timing should work for them. Pulling them from a conversation with friends to ask how the day went, or to have a discussion, is the wrong time. Negotiate a time that works for both and initially have a short conversation. You will find that the more non-judgemental you are about the teen’s activities, the more they will confide in you. And please remember they are just talking to you, they do not want you to solve their problems!!!
  • Maintain discipline in the house – Just because this is an unpredictable time, do not forgot to put in house rules that everyone must follow. For e.g. – no watching television / using mobile phones during meals. It is crucial that everyone in the house follows rules and it is not just the teenager who follows them. The rules may be slightly different for the various family members (like how late they can come back home), but ensuring that everyone has rules to follow will not make the teen feel isolated / alienated.
  • Though they may keep pushing you aside and rejecting you, don’t respond by returning the rejection because you are hurt – this is a mistake. Teenagers still need you, though they cannot admit it. As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase without getting very angry or stressed out. Your stress and frustration will reflect on your teen who will continue to push you, as the roller coaster that they are putting you on is the same one they are feeling internally.

Most importantly, remember that teenagers are individuals with unique personalities and their own likes and dislikes. Some things about them are universal, though. No matter how much your teen seems to withdraw from you emotionally, no matter how independent your teen appears, or how troubled your teen becomes, he or she still needs your attention and to feel loved by you. And the teenage years do pass by at some point and if you have weathered it well, you will have a successful, well-balanced, mature young adult coming out of its cocoon.

As Dr. Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education at Children’s Hospital in Boston once said “It’s the task of the teenager to fire their parents and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kannika Bharath Iyengar, 27, is a Masters in Counselling from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently consulting in a number of Bangalore-based organisations for work related to autism spectrum disorders and counselling. Kannika counsels people across a range of economic and social backgrounds, and dealing with issues ranging from academic and adolescent to marital problems, old age related issues, aggression, obsessive compulsive tendencies, etc. She is also a passionate baker and loves to use healthy ingredients to make great food, and teach the same to others. A green advocate, Kannika ensures that people around her produce as little waste as possible and make the world greener.

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