How Parents Can Start Preparing For The Teenage Years

We all know that children grow up quickly.

It may have seemed like you were just rocking your crying newborn, chasing after your wild toddler, or playing Tooth Fairy for your young child. But now, you’re on the cusp of high school. It might be time to start thinking about driving lessons, college prep, and launching into adulthood.

Preparing for the teenage years isn’t for the faint of heart. As a parent, you want what’s best for your kids, but navigating teenage emotions and sudden behavioral changes can be frustrating. So here’s what you can expect- and how to maintain a healthy relationship with your teen.

Actively Listen (More Than Ever)

You know it’s important to listen to your child, but it’s particularly crucial during this vulnerable time. Even though teens naturally pull away from their parents, they need a secure foundation at home. They need to trust you’re there for them if they have problems or fears.

When your child listens, aim to give them your full attention. Consider reflecting and repeating what they say to ensure that you completely understand. If you feel confused about something, ask clarifying questions.

Model Taking Care of Yourself

Even if your child rolls their eyes at you, they’re watching your every move. Your home is the foundation for learning and integrating behavior. Children look up to their parents and internalize how they regulate emotions, handle conflict, and manage stress. What actions do you want them to see?

That’s not to say you need to take care of yourself perfectly. After all, you’re only human. But try to make a conscious effort to be a good role model for your child.

And if you mess up, make it a point to acknowledge what happened. This shows that it’s okay to make mistakes and that you (and your child) can learn from them.

Give Them Space

Helicopter parenting may be tempting, particularly if you’re worried about your child’s development or well-being. But hovering over everything they do will backfire.

Autonomy is essential during the teenage years. Your child needs to know they have the right to privacy. Moreover, they need to know you won’t betray or violate that right.

Instead of automatically trying to solve problems for them, encourage them to practice critical thinking skills. If you feel tempted to fix the situation, instead consider how you can simply provide support.

Maintain Clear Boundaries

Boundaries are essential when it comes to parenting a teenager. Your boundaries maintain a sense of predictability- if your child knows how you will respond every single time, there may be less tension or volatility.

Of course, that doesn’t mean your teenager will like your boundaries. It’s normal for them to criticize or challenge them. This is where a teenager might throw the infamous, I hate you, or You don’t care about what I want! After all, they value freedom, and you infringing upon that feels like a threat.

But children thrive when they have clear limits and expectations. Even if they protest, boundaries can help shape and encourage positive behavior. And enforcing them establishes your authority within the home.

Teach Stress Management and Coping Skills

The teenage years can be tumultuous for your child. For example, they may feel insecure about their friends, bodies, or grades. Likewise, mental health symptoms often have their initial onset during adolescence- this may lead to them experiencing significant mood shifts, anxiety, or depression.

Parents can’t control all these variables. But they can be proactive in teaching their children how to cope with challenges when they arise. Remember that it’s never too early to show your child how to identify their feelings or practice self-care.

Commit to Having Difficult Conversations

Drugs, sex, bullying, violence, suicide- these all represent issues teenagers face on a daily basis. Some are open about the psychological impact; others are far more aloof or guarded. And while you may worry about how these problems impact your child, staying silent often worsens the situation.

Commit to having tough conversations as early as possible. Remember that the discussions are often fluid and ongoing- ideally, you want your child to feel comfortable bringing up the topic whenever they need support.

It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers. Teenagers value authenticity, and you should never pretend to be an expert on something you’re not! Simply let them know when you don’t know something, but make it a point to remain neutral and objective when discussing sensitive material.

How Therapy Can Help Your Family

If the teenage years have you feeling panicked, you’re not alone. This is a notoriously challenging time for parents, and many people worry about making the wrong move.

Individual or family therapy can provide a safe, nonjudgmental soundboard if you’re struggling with navigating this time. Having support and learning the right tools can promote a healthier relationship with your child. Contact me today to learn more!

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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