If you live with a teen you’ve probably wished, at some point, that they came with a good set of instructions and warning labels. Or, you may have even wondered why no one ever told you that it would be this hard. If they had you, might not have contemplated having children at all. Instead, as a parent, you muddle through their teen years as you remember what you were like in hopes of finding some entry into their head. This can be detrimental due to our selective memories and lack of understanding that things were much different way back when.
Your goal as a parent is to build, or maintain, a relationship with your child. So, you must learn their language and step into their adolescent environment. After working with teens for over two decades I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work in gaining entry into their world and keeping their trust. I’ve compiled what I think are the most important concepts to master into a top ten list.
- Teens are growing physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. This looks different for each person. Give them room to grow and find ways to encourage them emotionally. Guide them socially, but carefully, and allow them to entertain ideas about spirituality (what is my role here, who made all of this, does anyone really care, etc.).
- Teens want more responsibility. Believe it or not, they want boundaries and the responsibility to act within them. Give them opportunities to be challenged.
- Teens want your trust. If you give them something to do, then trust that they will do it, and do it well. Don’t let your facial expressions or body language be a discouragement.
- Give them room to fail. Through failure they learn. Encourage them to keep on going and try again.
- Don’t plan their successes. Let them be responsible for these and step back. As parents, it is hard to let the chicks fly, but it must be done. When everyone is a winner, no one is a winner.
- Let them take risks. The trust factor enters in here as well. Let them try things for themselves. Risk taking generates passions and direction in life. You, as a parent, have a keen sense into what your child is able to handle in the way of risks. Don’t be pressured or fooled by risks that should be saved for a later date.
- Teens like to have your input. Believe it or not, your voice is important in their lives. Speak often and don’t walk away.
- Teens need and desire adult input. Parents, relatives, teachers, administrators, or youth leaders; anyone that actually cares about them and plays an active role in their life.
- Teens are excited about life. Their world begins to open up as they learn and experience new things. Don’t squelch this excitement by warnings of your past experiences.
- Teens are beginning to formulate their dreams. With risk taking, responsibility, and trust they begin to see their strengths and weaknesses and ideas for their role in the world. This is the beginning of dream formation. Encourage it as much and as often as you can.