Teenagers can be tough to understand and parent! Having a teen in the house has made me realize even more so that every stage of life a person goes through brings new challenges. Teens have to navigate school, puberty, friends, social media and us ~ I feel that our job as parents is to do our best to help them through these rough waters. How do we not be too overprotective, too demanding but be loving and trusting?
AlpharettaMoms is lucky to have a summer intern, Annie Quindlen, who is a young adult with one more year of college! Annie recently went through those sometimes tumultuous years and has some great insight on how we as parents can try to relate to our teens so that it’s easier on all of us!
8 Ways to Stay Close and Handle Teenagers
- Be a listener and try to understand.
- Be trusting more than you are suspicious.
- Don’t turn away from dealing with issues, confront them.
- Make yourself available to talk.
- Show them love and appreciation, no matter what.
- Don’t try so hard to be their friend.
- Make time to be with them.
- When you get mad, take a breather first.
- Be a listener and try to understand. Sometimes it seems impossible to understand teenagers. They keep secrets, they get moody, they argue with us, or they hardly talk to us at all. After going through my teenage years and looking back on my relationship with my parents, I remember at times feeling like I couldn’t talk to my mom about everything. Teenagers fear that in telling their parents things, they will get into trouble, be grounded, judged, or that mom and dad will try to be too involved. Try to take a step back and be a non-biased listener who simply offers advice and tries to understand. Maybe then, your teen will feel like they can come to you without the fear of getting into trouble or fear of you freaking out about whatever they tell you.
- Be trusting more than you are suspicious. Hope for the best in your teen. Try to show that you trust your teen first and foremost, rather than show that you are skeptical of them. Yes, teenagers keep secrets and sometimes make poor choices, but parents can’t let this define how they look at their teen. Other parents, family members, friends, and especially your teen, will notice if you are always doubting him or her instead of trusting them. Show your teen that you believe in them, trust them, and know in your heart that they will do the right thing even when you aren’t around. Even if secretly you are worried and doubting them, don’t show it. This will help keep your relationship strong because your teen will admire how much you trust them, and he or she will not want to lose that trust or disappoint you.
- Don’t turn away from dealing with issues, confront them. There is no denying that sometimes both teens and parents are tired of arguing and would rather just sweep their issues under the rug. I would not recommend turning your back to these issues because your teen will just think that he or she can get away with doing it again. When I was a teen, I hated when my parents would say, “We need to talk about this” or “Come down from your room for a little chat.” My parents didn’t care if I was unhappy with their opinions, conclusions, and punishments on any issues that we faced at the time. Rather, they always made me talk about things with them, even if it was uncomfortable for all three of us, and even if I was angry at them for a few days afterward. Now that I’m a bit older, I recognize that they did the hard thing at the time, which turned out better in the long run for our relationship. If my parents hadn’t discussed their concerns with me or disciplined me when I messed up, I truly believe that to this day, I wouldn’t know the meaning of responsibility, accountability, or confrontation.
- Make yourself available to talk. One of the best things that my Mom always made sure of when my siblings and I were growing up was making herself available to talk to us about anything. She has always been incredibly comforting, aware, and available. My mom could always tell if something was bothering us, and she always made it clear that she was there both to listen and talk to us. Even if we didn’t take her up on it, Mom always let us know that she was there. Teenage years can be extremely lonely, even if your teen has tons of friends. Let them know that even on your busiest days, if they need to talk to someone they love and trust, their Mom or Dad is always there.
- Show them love and appreciation, no matter what. Teens need affirmation and love more than anyone. At the end of the day, no matter how many headaches your teen brings you, make sure you always let them know how much you love them. You will never regret telling your child too often that you love them, appreciate them, and that you value all of the joy they bring to your life. You might, however, regret not saying these things enough to your child when they are growing up. Even if you and your teen are fighting or things are tense at one time or another, you will never regret telling them that you love them more than anything. Reminding your teen of your affection regularly will strengthen your relationship, and it will make sure they never doubt how loved they are.
- Don’t try so hard to be their friend. One of the phrases my dad always said to my three siblings and me growing up was: “My job isn’t to be your friend or to make you like me. My job is to make sure you grow up to be a responsible, respectable adult.” My siblings and I hated it when he would say that. We couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to be our friend and why he didn’t care if we liked him at the time or not. Now that we have all grown up, I know for certain that this is one of the best philosophies Dad followed as a parent. He meant that he didn’t care if his firm, confrontational, and sometimes strict parenting made us not like him at the time. Dad knew that we would get over it later on, and he knew that those tense times would be worth it if his kids grew up to be respectable adults. My dad’s parenting wasn’t always perfect, and there were definitely some rough patches, but he did his job as a parent. Part of being a good parent means doing what is right for your teen in the long run, which typically means doing the hard thing over the easy thing (actually parenting your teen versus trying to be cool and make them like you).
- Make time to be with them. This one is pretty simple, but sometimes it’s hard to follow. Life can get pretty busy, and sometimes the days go so fast that we barely have time for ourselves. If this relates to you, try to just take a step back from everything going on in your life and make more time to be with your kids. The times you have with your kids when they’re growing up will be some of the best memories that both you and they look back on. Especially when your kids grow to be teens, and they don’t need you around all the time, make sure to create time solely to be with them. Whether that means watching your favorite show together, talking and laughing together, or being at all of their sporting events, this quality time matters to your teen more than you think.
- When you get mad, take a breather first. There will be times when you might want to scream at your teen, shake them, or even give up. Next time this happens, try to just take a breather and turn your back to them or leave the room. Sometimes all it takes is getting some space or fresh air to calm you down and remind you to think before you say or do something you will regret. Even just one minute of breathing and thinking can save you from a screaming match or from feeling guilty for reacting in a way that you shouldn’t. Plus, if your teen isn’t getting a response from you or a fight on your end, they may decide to end the conversation there or give you some space.
Parenting can be the most remarkable accomplishment we do in our lives and we simply can try to do our best. When it comes to parenting teens, I agree with everything Annie wrote above. I feel learning from others, especially young adults who have words of wisdom for us parents with teens, can only help us to be a better parent. I know my 16 year old son has tested me in so many ways that sometimes I wonder what will be next. It is hard for me to be trusting rather than suspicoius! I just need to take a breather, listen but remember to love and spend time with him. I hope that he knows that I will always be there for him, am available to talk at any moment and will always love him! Thank you Annie!
Article written by Annie Quindlen. All opinions are her own. Top photo from rawpixel.