Rebellion. Talk-back. Mood swings. Independence. Out of control.
Like many parents, you have probably heard these words associated with teenagers and you might have secretly wished your child would remain your obedient and lovable kid for as long as possible. Parenting teenagers can seem like a roller coaster ride and you will encounter bumps along the way. Yet, it can also be an interesting and self-effacing journey if you stay connected with your teenager using the following S.M.A.R.T tips:
S – Stay Involved Through Door Openers
The heart of your teen is like a door. When he feels safe with you, his door is open to you. Staying involved and keeping the door wide open does not mean controlling or micro-managing your teen’s life or activities. It does mean giving him the space he needs and age-appropriate amount of freedom.
Less nagging and more listening can help to keep our teens’ doors open. As is asking good and specific follow-up questions.
Instead of “How’s your day?” ask: “What was interesting about school today?” If the reply is “Nothing” then follow-up with the question, “What would make school interesting for you?”
Empathetic listening is about walking a mile in your teen’s shoes and understanding his emotional experiences or struggles.
M – Make empathetic listening a connection tool
Empathetic listening is about walking a mile in your teen’s shoes and understanding his emotional experiences or struggles. If we desire to enter our teens’ inner worlds, we must first actively tune in when they are sharing their struggles or unpleasant encounters with us.
One effective way to understand their dilemma or situation is by reflecting their feelings.
Instead of “If (friend’s name) doesn’t want to befriend you, no big deal. Just find another friend to hang out with,” say “You are feeling hurt because (friend’s name) kept a distance from you. Being rejected is awful.”
Instead of saying “No point crying over spilt milk,” say “Making mistakes is not a pleasant experience and you certainly do not take joy in a poor judgment call.”
When we listen attentively and add a powerful dose of empathy, it spells understanding and love to our teens.
Attentive Listening + Empathy = Understanding + Love
A – Ask for their opinion
We can consider their opinions in family matters that affect them.
Here is an example of how a mother got her sons involved in implementing a family plan.
We lived overseas with our two sons. Their transition to adolescence coincided with going to public school after years of being home-schooled.
One especially rough day, they took turns snapping at my husband and me. It took us a long time of research on parenting teens before finding a possible solution. Before implementing it, we had a family discussion to get their opinion. My sons liked it and were bought in.
Our plan – to put down whatever we’re doing for a 20-minute “chat time” when each child returns from school. The truth was that we missed one another!
It’s grown from 20 minutes to 1 hour now, and we love it! Our connection changed because of all the transitions, but I’m thankful we discovered how to reconnect.
We can also seek their views on social issues as it is a good way to understand their worldview. Remember to refrain from overreacting, preaching or lecturing when they express views contrary to ours, especially on matters of faith and controversial issues.
For instance, if they think that getting a tattoo is cool and just an art form, avoid judging and harshly criticising their viewpoint. Instead, be curious and ask them to help you understand their viewpoints.
Tell them you appreciate their being open and honest about their views. Choose another time and setting to share your perspective of the same issue if you are unable to do so calmly.
R – Reach out and affirm
School work, co-curricular activities, sports training, competitions, friendship struggles.
Life as a teenager can be stressful, demanding and hectic. To help them stay grounded and resilient, they need us to reach out and remind them of their worth and value.
As a wise saying goes: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a silver setting.”
Even for teens whose dominant love language is not words of affirmation, a well-timed, encouraging word, spoken or written sincerely, can strengthen their sense of self. Remember your validation should be unconditional.
Statements like these don't convey unconditional validation.
- “You are precious because I went through so much pain to conceive you.”
- “You are the best, that’s why I am pushing you to study hard.”
- “I am working so hard because you are special to me and I want you to succeed in life.”
While such words may seem harmless and well-meaning, telling them to your teen unwittingly sends the subtle message that their worthiness comes with strings attached.
- “You are the best thing that has happened to me as a parent.”
- "You are precious to me."
- "I love you."
T – Take time to laugh
Nothing builds bridges more than laughing and having fun together. Capitalise on everyday activities to share light-hearted moments with your teen. During dinner, share a funny incident that happened at work. During car rides, tell your own amusing stories of adolescence. Another door opener is to reminisce the memories of sweet, heart-warming and annoying things they did when they were young.
As our children make the leap into adolescence, they may not require or want huge amounts of our time. However, they do crave the assurance that we value and love them unconditionally and are available when things get rough.
Let’s stay connected with our teens by involving them in family decisions, listening to their concerns with empathy, and having fun together.
As a family life educator, counsellor and trainer, Swee Fen desires to equip and educate parents couples and individuals with practical skills and knowledge to become the best version of who they are and encourage them to live life to the fullest.
- Which of the above S.M.A.R.T tips will you apply this week?
Learn practical handles to guide your teen at our upcoming The Parent-Coach Dialogues.
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