I have put together some tips to support you in maintaining a positive relationship with the teenagers in your life. These tips emanate from my clinical practice where I work with teenagers. Please read them as suggestions. Use what you think might work in your life. Where possible, apply them in a way that is consistent with who you are, and how you parent.
If your teen tries to talk to you about their life, do your best to stop what you’re doing and listen. You can always get back to your emails but there is no guarantee that you’ll get this precious moment with your teen back!
Although tempting, try to avoid saying things like “when I was your age…” or “you should do this…” Your job is to support your teen finding out who they are and expressing their authentic self in the world.
Recognise your teen’s positive qualities out loud. For example, “You are kind, thoughtful, creative, funny…” Avoid complimenting beauty and intelligence.
Avoid directly accusing your teens of lying. A more effective response could be, “I hear what you are saying and I am having difficulty believing it.”
If your teenager is emotionally dysregulated and you want to help them find balance, help them identify the feeling(s) they are experiencing, with kindness and interest. For example, “You look frustrated right now. What’s going on for you?” Even if this is not correct and they say, “No, I’m feeling super hurt…” at least you have initiated a dialogue and have helped them (and you) identify a feeling, giving them a platform to express it in a direct way. This often reduces distress.
Rather than reacting to what your teenage boy or girl is saying, listen to how they are saying it. This will validate their feelings and, at the same time, help to regulate them. Your non-reactional response will help them maintain some emotional balance as they navigate their inner storm with you. This also works with your spouse!
Keep family meal times regular and consistent as much as is practically possible. Consider regular evening meals or weekly Sunday meals.
Notice if one or more of your children are occupying all the space in your family conversations. Ask the quieter ones about themselves in a respectful and curious manner. If you don’t get much response the first time, don’t give up. Keep trying. This, at the very least, communicates care and acknowledgement.
Go on occasional family trips together even if you are met with resistance. Instilling this sense of cohesion and togetherness reinforces a sense of belonging, unity, and meaning. Include your step-children. (Be mindful to not treat your step children as second-class citizens. Offer them the same choices presented to your own children. Do your best to make them feel included and valued, this goes a long way in creating family unity and harmony.)
Maintain positive feelings about your teens. Don’t harbour negative feelings.