You used to be a teenager, so you remember how hard it was. Of course we know now how easy they have it and how much harder it is to be a parent, but we can’t expect them to understand that. The world just looks different through their eyes, and sometimes it’s hard for you both to relate to one another. We constantly need new tactics to connect to our Mini Me’s to maintain a close relationship that will survive the teenage years when all they want to do is get away from us, so here are a few:
1. Respect Them
They are people too, and just because they don’t know as much as you they are still just doing their best to make it through this world. You may have lived two or three times longer than they have, but you haven’t lived their life, so accept that they might know more than you give them credit for. Don’t be afraid to learn something from them! You raised them so they’re probably pretty smart. Be open and receptive to their thoughts, questions or problems. They want to be able to confide in you, so make it easy by showing acceptance and letting them know are proud of how they are handling things.
2. Release Control
The only way to learn self-control is to be in control of yourself. It is something that takes trial and error, so give them chances to practice before they don’t have you there to monitor. You are still in charge, but you can’t micromanage a teenager and not suffer the backlash. Allow them to be independent within reason, make them feel trusted so that they have a reason to WANT to do the right thing and play by your rules. Make it clear what will happen if they don’t, and if they don’t, follow through with exactly what you said would happen. They have to know what to expect in order to respect the consequences. Try not to mistake the desire for independence for defiance, they just want the chance to live their own life, and sometimes that might not be the same thing that you want.
It’s going to be ok. The storm will pass and you will get your kid back. Their world is so fragile and it is constantly imploding and exploding at a moments notice and sometimes for seemingly no reason at all! Your job is to try and keep your cool; you are the example they will follow and learn from. Be careful not to say hurtful things, or anything you don’t mean in the heat of the moment, it will add fuel to the fire and create even more problems in the future
4. Have Fun Together
You both need to see each other having fun, and you need to be able to let loose and be goofy with each other. Do the stuff they want to do even if you don’t. Show interest in what they are interested in, ask questions, take them places, let them pick the music, dance to it with them, even if it sucks—which it probably will. Let them see that you are a real person, not just Mom or Dad. Keep them active, it will keep you young
5. Be Supportive of What They Want to Do
I know it’s hard, as parents it falls on us to facilitate the entire process of whatever they want to do. We have to sacrifice and work so that we can pay for the sports equipment, the drum set—and sacrifice the basement—we help them practice, we drive them to practice, pick them up on time and have to make sure we’re there to cheer them on! It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Even when they don’t seem like they appreciate all that we do, at least we can watch them grow and work hard to get good at something they love, which is almost more fulfilling than doing it ourselves.
6. Tell Them What They Need to Hear
Parents have to wear a lot of hats. We tell teens when they’re right, when they’re wrong, and what the difference is. Sometimes we have to tell things we don’t want to, but it’s better that they hear it from us then have to go learn a hard lesson on their own. Tell them the truth! They can handle it. Don’t try and protect them by lying to them, it may hurt but it will make them stronger. Most of all, tell them you love them. That’s what they need to hear the most. Be that parent who is always telling them you love them, even though you know they already know because you tell them 100x a day. Whatever it takes, make sure they always know that your love is truly unconditional and present.
7. Be Empathetic to What They’re Going Through
What would the teenage years be without a little teenage angst? These are the years when they first start exploring relationships, intimacy, social dynamics, and it is dramatic! They are feeling feelings they’ve never felt before and it’s overwhelming! You have to admit, even as an adult, these feelings are hard to deal with. So take in to account that when they explode into a melodramatic breakdown, they just haven’t learned how to cope with these things yet. Don’t get frustrated, just guide them through these feelings and teach them to process things as best as they can.
Better and Better,
Laura Silva Quesada
and the Team