If you’re like most parents, you’ve likely heard something like this from your teen once or twice—“You’re the worst parent ever!” Sound painfully familiar?
Developing a meaningful relationship with your teenager isn’t easy. Hormonal changes and a brain that’s still growing add to the complexity, and it can seem as if nothing works, leaving you both caught in a slew of ongoing arguments.
Of course, you don’t like this situation nor do you want it to keep happening. But what are you supposed to do?
Most of the time you wish there was a parenting playbook, holding all the answers you need. But, such a book just doesn’t exist.
Nevertheless, there are strategies that do work to help you build a better and more meaningful relationship with your teen. Here are a few.
1. Understand the Changing Relationship Dynamics
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget your teen isn’t that little child off to their first day of school. Instead, they’re on the cusp of adulthood and beginning to spread their wings.
Also, the relationships they have with both adults and their peers are changing and often becoming more complicated. That includes your relationship with them, too.
Since they’re not yet adults, however, it’s still your responsibility to provide structure and love for them. Keep in mind, the way you did this when they were younger isn’t going to work now.
2. Listen to Your Teen
If there’s one piece of advice out there that dominates this conversation, it’s listening to your teen.
But many people fail to consider what listening really means. Effective listening means being open to your teen’s thoughts and perspectives. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t have to discount them either.
Teens, like all people, want to be heard and understood. For you, that means slowing down, not being quick to judge, and being inquisitive.
Who knows, if you stop to listen to your teen, they might just surprise you!
3. Don’t Take Things Personally
Unsurprisingly, not taking things personally is easier to say than actually do.
After all, in the midst of an argument, you’re only one step away from hurt feelings, widening the gap between the two of you. Plus, they’re your child, so it’s hard not to feel hurt when they personally attack you.
Still, keep in mind that the way a teen deals with conflict is going to look different than someone 10, 15, or 20 years older than them.
Remember, they’re still developing the vocabulary and coping skills for dealing with conflict. And guess who they’ll look to first as a role model? That’s right, it’s you.
4. Be Affirming with Your Teen
All too often teens are told by adults, “You can’t do that,” or “Don’t be ridiculous.” Statements like these only add fuel to the fire that, “My parents just don’t get it.”
Instead, be more affirming with your teen. That means you don’t have to get every little piece of teen culture. But you can learn more about what their interests are and support their growth.
This is especially true if they’re trying out a new hobby or skill. When they struggle, instead of taking an “I told you so” attitude, be more positive and supportive.
5. Have Meaningful Experiences Together
Even though your child is older, it doesn’t mean that they have no desire to share meaningful experiences with you.
Is there an activity both of you enjoy doing?
It could be going to a sporting event, practicing a hobby or craft, or going outdoors. The teenage years are another opportunity for both of you to have meaningful experiences that can strengthen your relationship.
6. Pay Attention to Warning Signs
If your efforts at creating a better relationship with your teenager don’t seem to be working, and you notice changes that seem beyond the typical teen angst, like anxiety symptoms or signs of teen depression, it may be time to seek counseling for your teenager. There are many things to consider, like friend relationships and school dynamics (i.e., do they need some coping strategies for changes in school due to the COVID-19 pandemic?). Here are some signs to look for that if ongoing, may require teen therapy:
- Sleep issues
- Sudden changes in friends
- Weight changes
- Skipping school
- Falling grades
- Signs of substance abuse
- Run-ins with the police
Although there isn’t a playbook for teenagers, there are still some tried and true strategies for parenting a teen. Consider these ideas for building a more meaningful relationship with your teenager.
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If you’d like more support in parenting your teen and decide you’re in need of a high quality counseling practice in the Columbus, OH area for teen counseling or therapy to help deal with your parenting struggles, please reach out and contact Blue Boat Counseling today. Our skilled mental health therapists are trained to provide counseling for teenagers and parents. We can help you and your teen work on that meaningful relationship you both really want.