Teenagers! Forever rolling their eyes at you, storming off, slamming doors…
But don’t take it personally. Teens just can’t help being prickly, rebellious and secretive. Respect their need for privacy, and don’t try starting conversations early in the morning, or when they’re hungry! Schedule times to talk about difficult topics such as school work, try to avoid implying they’re always getting everything wrong, and watch for occasions when they seem to want to talk.
Because there will be times when they have something important to tell you. So stop what you’re doing and listen. Keep a straight face even if you’re furious, ask open-ended questions to help them along, and always respond sympathetically. Or they won’t try again. They probably had to make a big effort to start the conversation.
And don’t make clever remarks. Teenagers are incredibly sensitive. And often sarcastic - but that doesn’t mean they can take it themselves. So listen far more than you speak, accept their feelings, as long as they’re expressed respectfully, and avoid lecturing and nagging.
Expect fights, and help your teens learn good conflict skills. Because teens who adopt argument styles like attacking, withdrawal, or passively accepting your wishes, are more likely to become depressed or anxious.
They’re also likely to have difficulty resolving disputes in their friendships and love lives, while teenagers who learn how to solve issues with their parents tend to have good mental health and successful relationships wherever they go.
So how do you help your teens to learn problem solving skills?
Start by using every minor disagreement to help your children understand themselves and others better. And encourage them to consider every argument from both sides. Try to be a good role model for taking another person’s perspective - in disputes with your spouse, neighbours, or your teens - for example. Then when something more serious comes up, you’ll stand a much better chance of resolving the issue well.
Be involved in your teenagers’ lives because adolescents whose parents monitor their activities, talk with them and eat together develop better decision-making and thinking skills.
Teens also think they know everything. So help them understand that becoming an adult is not like unlocking a level in some video game. They won’t wake up one day suddenly mature. Maturity comes from learning the skills that make you successful. Which can take a lifetime… Explain that if they’re just mindlessly going with the flow, then they’re not maturing. That life’s not about what you want, but what you want to do. That you’re only mature once you’re passionate about what you do. Until then, you’re just coping.
Show them how success comes through hard work, and that it’s not guaranteed. Help them to learn how to handle relationships kindly and considerately. And start all of this early, well ahead of their teen years. Don’t wait until they’ve stopped talking to you. Because if you get things right early on, you’ll have brilliant teenagers!