Parenting Your Adolescent

Four adolescent teens sitting on wall looking out to sea
Image credit: photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash.

Living on Long Island, our teenagers are faced with some unique challenges that their peers around the country are perhaps not faced with. The influences of money, as well as living next to arguably the most intense city in the world, bring added stressors to parents of teenagers. Keep reading to discover new ways that can help.

Appreciating And Better Understanding The Pressures On Kids Today

In some ways, even though our children may live with us, they also live in their own version of the world. Of course they do: we did too when we were younger.

So even though, as parents, we have all, at one time or another, been teenagers too, today, the world is changing faster than ever before, so our teens' time is different, with new, and ever widening influences. 

In addition, sometimes, we have had the benefit of gaining more practise at dealing with a lifetime of living.

So with better understanding, while we can help them, they can help us too - and that is family teamwork at its best.

Nevertheless, for now, continuing appreciating just a little more, the theme of teen stress, add to that the “normal” stresses of emerging adulthood, and it can make for a very challenging time. Experiences such as:

  • Constant peer pressure (the effects of this alone are sometimes massively underestimated).
  • Learning to drive.
  • Learning about their sexuality.
  • Realizing their parents are people, too, with strengths, weaknesses, joys, fears, hopes, dreams, and aspirations, and ...
  • Learning where they fit in the world
  • And so the list goes on.

So yes, indeed, teenagers too have a lot to deal with.

Dealing With Shut Downs And Breaking Toxic Cycles

It might seem as if they have shut down recently, as if they are more reluctant to talk about things that are important. It can turn into an endless cycle for parents and children, as we ask “how was your day” and get shut down, we grow frustrated at the lack of response and say things like “Fine. If you don’t want to talk.”

It may seem as if the joy in being a family has been sucked out, as if everything turns into an argument or a negotiation. “But Alex gets to stay out until 1 am. Why can’t I?” We hear these frequent refrains, and it starts to make our blood boil as soon as the topic comes up.

The good news, though: finding a solution that works for everyone is the same, wherever you live.

As parents, we are here to support and guide our children, but it is up to them to make the choices that determine their lives. After all, we cannot be with them every second of the day.

We can’t be there when someone offers them a drink. We can’t be there at school when they feel worthless or degraded by a stray comment. And we can’t always be there when they experience any of the normal teenage reactions to what is occurring around them: shame, bewilderment, or anxiety.

When they are dealing with all of these pressures, is it any wonder that communicating with them can seem so tough? But we can learn how to bring back joy and equanimity into our family lives. We can ensure that no matter what is going on around them, that their home life is safe, secure, and full of joy.

Be The Parent

Even when faced with moodiness, door slamming, and even lies, it is up to us to rise above this and not indulge in the same behavior. We can keep it together, and we need to for the sake of our families. That means being calm even when faced with anger, hostility, or apathy.

Get Their Input: Ask Your Teen To Contribute To The Outcome

When you are both calm, sit down and talk about a couple of hot-button topics (things like when they are allowed to have the car or curfews).

Then, ask your child what they think is fair. Come to a compromise on the topic that you are both comfortable with, and then write it down in a contract.

Ask your adolescent what they think the consequences ought to be if they go outside of the contract, and write those consequences down, too. Everyone needs to have a clear sense of where the lines are.

Don’t Use Bribes To Get What You Want From Your Children

It can reinforce a sense that they should be rewarded only when they are “good” or “achieving”. They need to know that you love them unconditionally, no matter what their grades or their ability to finish homework.

Set Up Requirements And Expectations

Explain that everyone has a part in the family’s life, which includes chores and/or doing their homework on time. Perhaps see if they want to trade certain chores – are there things they enjoy doing more than others?

Ignore The Small Stuff

Frequent arguments about cleaning their rooms? Perhaps try ignoring it for a few weeks. After all, does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things? They never put their shoes away? Well, if it bothers us that much, then we can try putting them away ourselves, or just leaving them out. Frequently, a teen will notice that mom or dad hasn’t been bugging them about it, and will start to do these things on their own (really). 

Tackle The Hard Stuff

All of these tools may aid us in dealing with our teens. However, this list is by no means an excuse to avoid real issues. Many teens do struggle with depression, substance abuse, or inappropriate sexual encounters. If you see a pattern, ask your adolescent about it. Don’t be afraid of what you might find out. If you suspect something, then it is probably only the tip of the iceberg, and needs to be addressed.

Again, this needs to be in a calm manner. Something like “I’ve noticed that you seem a little down lately, sweetie. Can I help talk through anything with you?” Or perhaps, “I’ve noticed that you occasionally smell like pot.” Wait for them to speak, and if you see that they are struggling, then reach out for professional help.

Know that drug use and other issues are symptoms of something larger, not the cause. It is really important here to start treatment – whether that be psychotherapy or a more intensive approach –as early as possible.

Therapy Too Really Can Help

Even without any major indicators, a great therapy practice can really help both teens and parents. Whether the family comes together, or just the parent or teen alone, learning how to communicate better within the family has benefits that extend far beyond just learning how to argue better: people who learn to live contentedly with their families can live and work with just about anybody!

At Nassau Guidance, we have many years of experience in helping teens, parents, and families to live in harmony with each other. Our practice focuses on relationships, and helping people within relationships learn how to speak, acknowledge, and find space for our own emotions. We hope that you and your teens enjoy this special time together!

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