Raising a teenager can feel like raising your child through the ‘terrible twos’ all over again. Through both stages of life, your child is going through big changes, pushing boundaries, testing limits, and throwing tantrums. As your child grows, so must your parenting strategy.
While communication is key, bombarding your child with questions might not be the most effective method. Too many questions can quickly feel like an interrogation—often leading to lies and a lack of trust. Here are some tips for building a healthy and trusting parent-child relationship.
As a parent, you want to know everything that’s going on in your child’s life. “Where are you going? Who are you going with? What time will you be home?” For absolute certainty of your child’s whereabouts, you could install a tracking device on their phone or in their car. However, you would have to accept that your technology-savvy teen could most likely find a loophole in this strategy, ruining the long-term goal of a trusting relationship. While it is important to know what your teen is up to, effective monitoring allows you to be the kind of parent your child chooses to share their experiences with. Setting clear and appropriate boundaries for your teen helps create a safe space for communication—making you the voice of reason in their head before making decisions on their own.
If you’re curious about what’s going on in your teen’s life, asking them direct questions may not be the most effective way to get answers. Sometimes simply sitting back and listening to your teen is more revealing, as they feel less pressured to answer questions according to what they think you want to hear. Pick up on little details or offhand comments about their day, as this is their way of reaching out. Remaining interested in your teen’s daily life, without prying them for information, will most likely lead to a more positive and effective conversation.
Control Your Reactions
It’s easy to act on emotion when your teenager is pushing your buttons. However, if you fight fire with fire, you’re going to get burned. As an adult with a mature mindset, take a second to regroup and ensure that your response will lead to a healthy conversation. Learning to monitor your reactions will encourage your child to come to you with their problems in the future, knowing you will respond with guidance – rather than anger or judgment.
Have the Hard Conversations
If a conversation is uncomfortable to have, it’s probably worth having. Don’t leave the important conversations up to the media, the internet, or their peers. Instead, use this as a chance to guide your teen to make good decisions and maintain good judgment. Having the challenging conversations now will open doors to many conversations to come as they enter this new phase of life.
The Good News
Luckily, you don’t have to have all the answers. Simply making an effort to listen to your child is a step in the right direction. Give them praise, make time to do things together, and always keep your ears and heart open. Guiding your teen through this new phase of life can be challenging, but a healthy parent-child relationship is equally rewarding. For more parent resources, head to our website!