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March 05, 2014

Seven Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Teen(s) Starting Today

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First off, let me begin by telling all you parents out there who are raising teens at this very moment, my heart goes out to you. Raising teens is not for the faint of heart, I must say. My heart also goes out to all those parents whose children have not yet hit the teen years…you have no idea the ride you are in for .  

Before I paint a one-sided scary picture of parenting teens, though, let me say that although teens can be moody, snappy and difficult at times, they can also be fun, thought-provoking and really cool to hang out with. Below are some tips that I’ve picked up along the way with my own kids…and I soooo wish someone had told me these pointers years ago. Here’s my gift to all the current and future parents of teens… a mini-cheat sheet to parenting teens. Enjoy and may it help make these years a little less stressful and a lot more fun…for both you and your teens.

The Seven Guidelines

  1. Lighten up: Stop taking everything so seriously. They’re kids and they’re going to make mistakes. Don’t micromanage them though, in an effort to make sure they don't mess up. They will mess up, we all did. When they do mess up, stay grounded and calm in the storm, not aggressive and reactive. Know that they're young and one way they learn is through their mistakes. So stop the freak outs!
  2. Stop the lectures: It‘s very easy to want so badly to teach teens to be kind, responsible and successful that you find a lesson in every TV show, statement, interaction or life event. Stop it. Stop the lecturing, stop the preaching and stop the teaching. No really, just stop. I’ve learned (ok—I’m learning) this the hard way. The more you lecture, the quicker they tune you out. Be choosy about your lectures, keep them short and sweet and when tempted to preach…just BREATHE . 
  3. Join them: When they’re hiding out in their rooms, don’t forget about them or assume they want nothing to do with you. Stay connected. Go in and hang out with them, watch a show with them or watch them play their games (or join them in the games). They may act tough, but inside they often feel insecure, lost and lonely and could use a strong support to count on. Be one for them just by showing up.
  • Greet them: Say hello, ask how their day was, share a silly aspect of your day and act as if you care. If they brush you off, give you the cold shoulder or act annoyed that you’re even speaking to them…BREATHE…and be grateful you have them in your life. Know that their moodiness is NOT about you—even when they say it is. They’re in a chaotic time of life with raging hormone changes, annoying acne, ridiculous peer pressure and outrageous pressure to “fit in,” be popular, do the “right” thing, do the “wrong” thing and on and on. You too would be moody under these conditions! 
  • Joke with them: Don’t be an ultra stoic, serious, high-pressure parent who seldom has fun or allows your children to have fun. Be playful, joke around, laugh. Life is serious enough, pressured enough and stressful enough without you adding to the equation. Have your expectations AND have some fun. Laugh at their jokes, make some of your own and be silly.
  • Listen to them: When they tell you a story about some boy/girl at school or some horrible teacher who hates them…TUNE IN. Talking can be hard for them so don’t make it harder by zoning out when they dare to share. Act interested, ask questions, share comments…but not too much or you’ll annoy them . 
  • Model for them: Always remember to model what you want your children to master. Don’t expect more from them than you’re able to do yourself or they’ll see right through your hypocrisy and call you on it for all the world to see. You don’t want that, trust me! If you want them to be calm—you better be calm. If you want them to be kind…you be kind. If you don’t want them to talk about other people? Don’t you, talk about other people. Clean up your side before you ask them to clean up theirs.
  • Parenting teens sometimes feels like a constant balancing act: be interested, yet not nosey; be concerned, yet not overly dramatic; be loving, yet not smothering and on and on. In the end, the best you can do is show your teens you love them, are there for them and want nothing but the best for them. Bring your best self to the equation—even in the most difficult of times—and you model for them how to bring their best self to the table (that might be ten years from now, of course, but you get what I mean ). The teen years are a potentially tough time for all involved, so have compassion for you and for them.  Know that these years can be a wild ride, so buckle up and enjoy the adventure! :-) Woo hoo! Here we go!!!

    Challenge: Be the teen parent you wish you’d had when you were a teen. Guide them, give them lots of love and be nurturing. Don’t take their actions personally—they’re seldom about you. Have compassion for their journey, hold them accountable when necessary and be supportive always. Good luck!

     

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