A common statement said by parents around the world is one like this ; ‘My teenager hates me! I can’t even say one word to them without them biting my head off!’. Many parents find it hard to support their teenager through this confusing and hormone-packed stage in their lives because of not being able to communicate well with them. The teenage years are full of change and growth – both physically and emotionally. Therefore, it is normal to expect a few arguments here and there, as both the teenager and the parent try to adapt to these changes.
When entering adolescence, teenagers tend to distance themselves a little bit from their parents. They do this so that they can start to assert their own independence and explore the world around them. Teenagers going through this phase in their lives often look towards their friends for support and guidance rather than turning to their parents. This comes from both a feeling of not being understood by their parents and from wanting so desperately to fit in and have a social circle around them. Teenagers are going through a phase of trying to figure out who they are in the world and prepare themselves for adulthood. Putting distance between themselves and their parents is a way of pushing the identity of ‘child’ away so that they can start to grow up.
Parents may find it difficult to accept that the same child that they were tucking into bed only a couple of years ago is now pushing them away. It takes time for the parent to adjust their mindset too and to start seeing their baby on the path to being a grown-up.
Below are three tips to help communicate with your teenager.
- Pick your battles.
There are going to be quite a few arguments throughout the adolescent stage. Fighting your teenager on every single one is going to make them feel like they can never ‘win’ and they will continue to push you away. Your child is trying to become independent, and they need to feel that they can be right sometimes, instead of always having to turn towards their mum or dad for the right answer. It is important to encourage them to speak their mind and to stick up for themselves and what they think is right.
- Do not judge.
One of the most important things is to make sure that your teenager never feels judged for what they do. It’s okay for them to make mistakes, and they will … plenty of them! Judging them for it will make them feel shame and make them lose confidence in themselves. It is important for your child to know that they will find support in you when they need it. If they feel judged, they will not turn to you when in need and they might keep things to themselves. This can be very isolating for a child, and it will continue to widen the distance between you.
- Do not assume you know best.
It’s very easy to want to tell your child how best to act in a certain situation because you’ve been through something similar in the past. Whilst there’s nothing wrong in telling your child that you understand them because you went through something like that too, it’s important to still encourage your child to find their own solution to the problem. What worked for you will not necessarily work for them. They are the experts about themselves, and it is important for them to feel that you acknowledge and respect that.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.
Experts, K. H. M. (Ed.). (n.d.). A parent’s guide to surviving the teen years (for parents). KidsHealth. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/adolescence.html.