10 Ways to Connect with your Grumpy Teenager
Society has a way of terrifying parents of their children at certain ages. Phrases like “terrible twos,” “threenager,” and, well, just the word “teenager” are enough to make many parents grimace. While no stage of parenting is easy, adolescence seems to be particularly dreaded, as teens gain independence and your old tactics of speed dialing Santa and holding Mr. Teddy hostage no longer seem to cut it.
And boy are teenagers confusing.
When you go to their soccer game, they loathe your very existence. If you don’t show up, they’ll be devastated and bring it up for the next 5 years. While you love and support them, you’re often met with slammed doors and one-word answers.
So what can you do?
Many people associate raising teens with attitudes and angst. What we don’t consider are the benefits of their behaviors - why it’s natural and even healthy for teens to go through rebellious years. The answer is that this stage is necessary for children to form their adult identities. It can get a little awkward as they shy away from childhood interests and try to take on the adult world, but know that with the right amount of structure and love, it can be a very meaningful stage for both of you.
Here are a few pointers for raising well-adjusted teens:
Ditch the doom saying
Don’t be that parent that introduces your kid as “the sullen teen in the back of the room.” While their behavioral changes might be hard for you to deal with, they are totally normal, so treat them as such. Cynthia Johnson, LMFT, Specialist in Parent and Child Therapy suggests, “When your teen gets emotional - stop, listen, and acknowledge the emotions they are having. Validate and summarize what you hear them saying.”
Unconditional love, conditional approval
Your teen is going to make some bad decisions, and you don’t have to accept unacceptable behavior. You can show discipline while letting them know that your love for them is unwavering. Remember to focus your criticisms on their negative behaviors and not who they are as a person.
Keep calm and carry on!
Though they’re sure they know everything and you know nothing, teens crave discipline. Their hormones are taking them through stormy waters, and it’s your job to be the captain, even if it makes you a little seasick. State clear boundaries and hold your teen accountable. It can be tough to keep calm when your teen screams that they hate you and wished they lived with Aunt Susan. When you feel your blood boiling, Cynthia Johnson recommends to “step away or request a of break from your teen during heated conversations - this is a great time to model how to manage strong emotions.”
Unite your front and have their back
If you are a two-parent household, make sure both parents are on the same page about rules and consequences. Show your teen that their behavior impacts your rules - as your teen shows more responsibility, allow them more freedoms. If they show poor judgment, be more restrictive.
Blue hair, don’t care!
Teens like to test out different identities to see what feels right. It can be alarming to see your daughter walking the line between keeping her My Little Pony collection and covering her walls with death metal posters, but as long as she’s being safe, stay positive about it. Allow her some privacy, but also show interest in her changing interests – her taste in fashion or music might not exactly be your cup of tea, but she will respect that you love her for who she is regardless of what she’s into.
Be a goofball
Quality time with them is important – especially when they are spending more time away from you with school and other activities. While you need to be their parent more than their friend, make sure you take the time to do fun, light hearted activities together so they see you as a person and not just a parent.
Give them a dose of what’s to come
They say they want to be treated like adults, right? Part of being an adult is creating and living up to one’s own expectations. Have family meetings to discuss their expectations on behavior, grades, and life goals. Have them take on household responsibilities with a family job list. Teach them how to create a budget and give them a merit-based allowance. Engaging in adult responsibilities will help them feel a sense of independence and that you respect that they are growing up.
Discuss risky business
When you tell your teen you want to talk about the consequences of sex, they may respond with utter disgust that their parent even knows what sex is. Ignore it and talk to them anyway; they may say they know everything and they don’t want to hear it, but what you say will stick with them. Also, be a good listener. Answer their questions and try not to respond with a stern lecture – instead, talk calmly about consequences, avoiding dangerous situations, and ways to overcome peer pressure. Tell them you know they are smart enough to make good choices.
Sit back and watch the magic happen
It’s hard to realize that the days when your child would snuggle up on your lap and watch Paw Patrol are over, but remember that all of your hard work as a parent has been preparing them for this transition to functional adulthood. If you don’t get bogged down by the fears of parenting a teenager, you can get a lot of joy from watching their unique talents, passions, and values unfold.
Talk to a specialist
Parenting a teenager is tough, and even though we were all teens once, it doesn’t make us experts on how to connect with them as adults. If you are struggling with knowing how to relate to your teen, there’s no reason for you to go through it alone. A specialist on parenting and child therapy can listen to both you and your teen, understand your perspectives, and empower you to regain a strong relationship.
Cynthia Johnson, MALMFT, is a specialist in Parenting and Child Therapy at Variations Psychology. She has years of experience in supporting families and strengthening relationships between parents, teens, and children.
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Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/adolescence.html
The Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/parenting-tips-for-teens/art-20044693?pg=2
NOAA Workforce Management Office: http://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/ParentingYourTeen_Handout1.pdf
How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn, M.M. (2018). 10 Ways to Connect with your Grumpy Teenager. Psychologically Speaking.
[Variations Psychology blog post].Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/10-ways-to-connect-with-your-grumpy-teenager