What happened to the sweet innocent child that wanted your attention all the time? They couldn’t wait to tell you about their day! Teenage years can be a difficult time for you and your teen and make relationships stressful! They will push limits, may seem moody, and can be the Kings and Queens of one word answers. Connecting and building healthy boundaries can be challenging, but not impossible. Creating healthy boundaries and a healthy relationship can help your teen gain independence, feel safe, and make good decisions. Boundaries can be important for parents to have a sense of control, let them know they are cared for, while giving the teen their own autonomy. How to deal with stress in your relationship and connect with your teen? There are factors to keep in mind while connecting with your teenager and keeping healthy boundaries.
Connect and Empathize
Spend time with your child to connect with him or her. Find an activity that you both enjoy and keep asking until they accept the invitation. Teens may be hesitant, but this one-on-one interaction is important for maintaining healthy relationships. Make it a time for positive conversations, not a time for addressing concerns or problems. Creating an environment for open communication will help build mutual trust and respect. Set aside time with no electronics or distractions and be present with each other. Listen before responding and respond instead of reacting. Resist the urge to fix things and just be there to listen and validate.
Many times parents shrug off their teen’s stress as no big deal and don’t take them seriously. Remember how it was to be a teen. Think about your own barriers you had to telling your parents about personal things. Empathize how complicated life can be and validate their feelings. Stay away from saying, “I know how you feel”, imply that their feelings don’t matter, or that they will just change. Acknowledge their feelings and needs and actively listen before sharing your own thoughts.
Problem solving is an important life skill that requires practice. If your teen is bailed out of every mistake, they miss out on the opportunity to practice. Let your teen face natural consequences as a result of their actions. Sometimes the natural consequences of their action are more of a learning moment then taking away the electronics. This will also help deter any power struggles that might come about when assigning consequences and make the relationship less stressful for both.
You are still the Parent
As we know, teens consistently push the boundaries that are set. This is the normal process of striving to be independent and there are still rules that need to be consistently applied. However, boundaries and rules can change in time or as trust and independence increases. Remember that you are the parent and they still need you. Even in the hardest days of crying and screaming, they will need to know you love them unconditionally and to feel your support and approval. Boundaries allow for structure and safety and remind the teen that they have your unconditional love. Try not to yell or scream, especially in front of their friends. Use set consequences infrequently and use rewards instead. Figure out consequences and incentives together before any incidents happen. This way, they have a part in the discussion and have a “buy-in” to respecting the boundaries. Teens look up to their parents. Research shows that parents have great influence on adolescent choices, including risk-taking choices like smoking or drug use.
Respect each other
Respect is another important factor in any relationship. Teens will more likely respect others when they feel they are respected. Even though teens may be dramatic and act silly, it is important to take their concerns seriously. Don’t belittle or dismiss them when they share a problem that seems trivial to you. Validate their feelings and let them know that you get it. You won’t always agree with them, but hold your compassion and respect for them as you disagree. Get to know your teen’s friends while not putting a negative label on them. Respect your teen’s privacy yet keep an eye on what is going on. Acknowledge your teen’s strengths and build them on. Let them know what you need from them, instead of what you don’t want your teen to do.
We are all human with emotions that might take us to places we didn’t want to go. We want to show teens that emotional management is possible and can be done with healthy coping skills. We don’t want to show them disrespect by letting our emotions get the best of us. It is normal to get angry and frustrated and when this happens, respond instead of reacting and try not to yell and scream, especially in front of their friends. Setting up consequences is important, but don’t rely on just consequences. Use rewards and build on their strengths. When you feel your emotions getting high, walk away. Model how to manage high emotions in a healthy way.
Stress in your relationship with your teen can be stressful at times! Teens can be moody, dramatic, and sometimes make poor choices, but they are just striving for independence, self-awareness, and figuring out how to navigate life. They need direction, support, and boundaries to feel safe and find the ability to make sound decisions. Listen, learn, and connect with your teen and build the relationship by listening and validating, not just trying to solve their problems. Have positive interactions with them, not just the negative interactions. Remember, it takes 5 positive interactions to balance out every negative interaction.