The adolescent years are difficult to navigate both for children and their parents. Hormone levels are running rampant, brains are changing, and your once precious child is now slamming doors, taking extreme risks, and crying uncontrollably at the dinner table.
A Tricky Time For All
We have always known that the teenage years were tricky. It is a time when parents tend to let go a bit, let their teen figure things out, but also attempt to set boundaries and teach valuable life skills. New research from a variety of multiyear studies offers more information and understanding of the adolescent brain and body and what parents can do to help.
Here is a breakdown of the research findings, specifically what you—as the parent—can do during these critical years to help your child find their way:
1.) Organizational skills — Coach your child, especially as they begin to enter the puberty years, on organizational skills. As a parent we sometimes expect that our children should be capable of remembering to bring a note to school, or pick up a packet from the school office, why do they keep forgetting their gym shoes? A lot is going on during these years impacting memory. As a parent, you can help by keeping a routine. Placing items by the door, packing them ahead of time, leaving sticky notes as reminders, or scheduling things on their cellphones.
Showing Your Teen You Care
2.) Support — Parenting a teen is no easy feat. Losing control and become argumentative when they are causing a disagreement is par for the course. But, if you can find it within you to maintain calm (you can go scream into a pillow later), you could be making a positive impact on your child’s future. Teens need support. They need a warm and supportive role model who can help them work through a problem rather than escalate it. If you need tips for how to maintain calm during an argument with your teen, you may want to consider speaking to a licensed counselor. They can help with some tips to keep your cool.
3.) Self-soothing — Your teen is likely becoming increasingly sensitive to social situations. They are convinced that boy doesn’t like them, why didn’t their friend Susan call them back last night? How are they supposed to be friends with someone who looks at them that way? A teen’s brain is not developed enough to understand why a peer might react in a certain way making things confusing and stressful. Teaching your healthy coping skills can help them through this challenging time and continue with them through life. Things like meditation, exercise, listening to music, mindfulness practices, etc. can go a long way.
Being Their Biggest Fan
4.) Coaching — Coach your teen through social situations. How should they handle an argument with their friend? Did they try talking to them this way? Or doing this instead? As a family, you can help your child to problem-solve by offering positive direction.
5.) Just Be There — Research shows that teens with developed, healthy friendships are less likely to make risky choices. Parents play a role here too. Developing the kind of relationship with your teen where he/she/they feels comfortable turning to you for problems and feels supported makes teens less likely to sneak out at night, lie about going to that party, ride in cars with drunk friends, or try drugs, etc.
The teenage years are crucial to development, but they are hard on parents who want to make the right choices while also setting strong boundaries. If you are struggling with how to parent your teen, or teach coping skills, consider seeking help from a licensed professional. They can offer non-judgmental tips and guidance to get you through.
Author: Whitney Halleman, LPC
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor who loves working with teen girls so they can live healthier lives and be more confident. She is happy to be living in her hometown of Lancaster again after living out of the area for the last ten years. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.