Thursday, 18 June 2015

Teenager at home

Do you have a teenager in the household? We are about to for the 2nd time. 

Having a teenager in the household can be difficult for families. Young people may develop ideas, beliefs and even some values that are really different to those of their parents. Even though this is part of the normal process of moving towards their independence, parents with teenagers may struggle with how much independence they should be allowed and at what age this is to happen.

Having been through the teen process once already I was thinking that I had more of an idea than most. Not true. Each child is so different that you can't apply one set of rules for one and expect that it will easily apply to their sibling. There is no cure-all for this. Each young person is an individual and needs different advice and different levels of advice as maturity progresses.

The big thing that I would like to stress is that communication is vital with teenagers.
Keeping the lines open is the key. It is different to communicating with younger children and can cause conflict and stress if handled badly. Following some simple tips may help to improve communication with your teenager.

I suggest that you always seek professional advice if you are concerned about your family members at any time, this includes your relationship with your teen. Issues that can affect communication with teenagers.

Do however remember that there are always bumps along the way.

Being an adolescent means rapid changes. These changes can be difficult for the rest of the family as well, especially the parents. Letting go can be difficult, however as parents we need to recognise that: A child’s job is to grow up and become an independent and hopefully sensible and mature adult.
As a parent, you need to help young people through this process. Try making decisions together.
Try to discussing the issues to reach an outcome that is acceptable to both you and your teenager.

Remember that a youth point of view may differ to yours. Differences might occur when they take up different activites that you may not understand or even like. Try to see this with the perspective that they are learning to be their own person, learning to be independant from you. This is a good thing. You will always feel responsible for your child’s wellbeing and safety, no matter how old they are. When children reach their teenage years, they start to make their own decisions. Sometimes they make the wrong ones. It is really important to try to be supportive and not critical. They will (hopefully!) learn valuable lessons from their mistakes.

Obviously they still need guidance, as a parent there are times when you will need to step in and remind them of this. Hopefully by the time this is needed you will have already formed a respectful relationship where the communication is (most of the time) a two-way street. During this time of constant change, both parents and young people need to take time to care for themselves. That can include going to their rooms. There is nothing wrong with either your teen or yourself needing some "me" time. Just as long as there is also so family time including the teenager.

You need to show you value your teenager and their uniqueness – show them your unconditional love. Remember that conflict is inevitable when people live together.

As your teenager grows to have some differences with you there is bound to be the occasional clash. Clashing with your teenager is normal and to be expected. Do be careful not to undermine the relationship between you and your teenager.

Try not to be too negative, harsh or judgmental. After all you too were a teenager once.

Here are some suggestions to help you to keep the lines of communication open:
  • Make time to spend with your teenager. Chatting before bed or while you are eating a meal together can lead to some great opporunities to share information. 
  • Try to listen more than you speak. You will find that this is a really important communication skill with teenagers, as they quite often want to share but will shut down if you don't give them the time to open up. 
  • Make time to spend together – teenagers are often busy with school, friends and other interests, but you can have a conversation with them over breakfast and dinner. Offer to take them to or pick them up from places; this will provide other opportunities for conversations. 
  • Try and have some fun times with your teen. Growing up can be a serious time, ensuring that you teenager laughs with you will help you to build your relationship for when the times get tough. 
  • Take the time to listen to their music, watch their television shows with them and go along to their sports practice sessions. A parent who is a regular part of the life of a teenager is more likely to be the one they turn to when they need someone. Continue to take an active interest in their life. 
  • Encouraging your teenager with the words "I love you" may seem obvious, but a loving parent is what a teenager needs. Teenagers handle crisis times in their life, a lot more confidently, when they know that they are loved. Don't be afraid to tell them often. 
  • Demonstrate your love using whatever physical contact they are comfortable with. 
  • Celebrate their achievements, forgive their mistakes, listen to them when they have a problem and show interest in how they plan to solve it. 
  • Support them in their problem solving. Feeling included and special is vital for every young person’s sense of positive self-esteem. 

Something that I have seen a lot of parents struggle with is the sense of rejection by their young adult. I have felt this myself and would encourage you not to try and make them feel guilty about it.
They still love you, it's just that sometimes there are other priorities and quite often they will simply expect you to understand. Be the 'grown-up' and show them that you do understand.

Another thing that I believe in is apologising when I am wrong. A lot of parents won't do that and it doesn't set a good example to your teenager. You expect them to apologise to you, give them the same respect.

You can change negative communication into positive communication.
Suggestions include: Select what is important to argue over. A basic guideline is that safety issues, like not getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking, are always worth fighting over. I know a lot of parents may differ in opinion with me over this idea, but things like cleaning up the messy bedroom might be best to ignore – just keep the door shut! Offer constructive criticism.

Acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. They will know themselves when they have got it wrong and don’t need to be reminded by you.

Give your teenagers the right to more freedom once they start showing that they can behave as a responsible person. I have in the past explained to my teenager that there is a trust bucket, when the bucket has been knocked over and emptied it will need to be refilled and this may take time.

It is often a good idea to include them in the decision making process when it comes to house rules. Be a bit flexible and let them have a say. Make sure that you explain some of the stricter rules to them. Things like who they can and can't get a ride in a car with. Why they can't get in a car when a friend has had some alcohol. Why they are not allowed to go to a party when the parents are not home.

Don't always be so quick to say "no" to your teenagers request. Think about it first and if you do say "no" it is a good idea to explain why. Most reasonable teenagers will understand, even if they don't let on to you that they do.

If you become worried about your teenager and you feel that there may be an issue that they are having in their lives that needs professional help, then the following places might be a good place to start:

Family relationship advice line -

Headspace - National Youth Mental Health Foundation -


Simply start with your local Doctor. They will know where to start looking for help.

Good luck with your teenager. We all need a little luck, as long as we manage the rest as we go.