The teenager in your life needs you in their life too.
Despite the shrugs that pass for answers to your questions. Notwithstanding the rolled eyes, grimaces, or long-suffering sighs. Regardless of the embarrassing spectacle you may become whenever their friends are around.
Marching toward adulthood is often an uphill climb amid an avalanche of traditional challenges for a teen. And now, the sophisticated woes created by technology, social media, and a global perspective can make teen life feel even more overwhelming.
It’s true, “being there” for your teen is a challenge. But ultimately, it is the greatest gift you can give. A supportive relationship built now will pay dividends in your adult relationship later.
So what’s the game plan for being the support your teen needs?
Consider these 6 Key Ways to Be There for Your Teen:
1. Pay attention to the reconnection “dance”
How does your teen connect? Do they have space and time to come to you on their own terms or are you always in pursuit, trying to draw them out? A better plan might be to notice how your teen approaches you. It will likely change from day today. Patience rather than pushiness is your ally here. Connection may come in a variety of forms: a quiet conversation in the car, a few brief texts in the middle of the day, or a long talk on the couch over ice cream and pizza. Simply be available to provide an ear, hug, or even a series of texts when he or she seeks connection. Prioritize maintaining a secure, loving connection between you. Be there when he or she needs you.
2. Appreciate, acknowledge, and interact with independence in mind
It’s a season of independence in your teen’s developing mind. They want to be there own person. They need to create an identity that is less about you and more about who they want to be. That’s perfectly okay. Your teen doesn’t need you to hover, they need you to champion their growth. Demonstrate that you appreciate their independence. Promote opportunities to show how far they’ve come, via new privileges, responsibilities, and expectations. Connect through open-minded discussion, rule changes, and serious consideration regarding their changing identity.
3. Remember, you are the grownup
To be there for your teen is to maintain perspective. Moods will come and go. Disagreements will happen. Your teen just doesn’t think like an adult yet. Your job is to pick your battles and be lovingly compassionate and understanding. Of course, you may need the support of your parenting peers, mentors, or a counselor, but you can do it.
Graciously striking a balance between holding your child to your household standards while still allowing space and time for missteps, self-correction without fear of humiliation or condemnation on your part. Offer unconditional love they can count on.
4. Listen more, lecture less
To communicate well, gain a truer sense of how your teen interacts and views the world. Listen to the music that moves them. Watch them interact with friends. Keep an open mind. And when they come to you or need your guidance?
Avoid speeches. If you want your teen to tune out, launch into a lecture filled with “shoulds” and “don’ts”.
The better course? Intentional communication with a heavy dose of listening. Make time to hear your teen and read their body language. When your teen asks to talk to you, be available and slow to fix or advise. Create space where there will be few or no distractions. Pay attention and ask for clarification if you need it. Just do so with respect for their feelings and perspective.
5. Affirm, validate and encourage intentionally
Recent research indicates that teens today are more anxious than ever. It’s no wonder that your teen needs support. Your teen is likely insecure and self-conscious about their body, relationships, and future. Don’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement, a genuine compliment, and loving support.
They may not show you outwardly but your teen still wants to know how capable, wanted, and important they are to you and your family.
There’s a harsh world out there they are attempting to conquer. It will be hard to resist your steady, nonjudgmental acceptance when they need somewhere to turn for comfort.
6. Seek more support
Finally, sometimes you have the skills to take these steps on your own. And sometimes you need some help. Perhaps your teen has deeper issues and concerns of their own. There’s no shame in seeking professional help for one or both of you. The teen years are tough. Often, an outside perspective can shine healing light.
Let me help you. Read more about teen counseling and reach out for a consultation soon.