Preparing for adult life can be tough on a parent-teen relationship. There are many external stressors—such as school, work and relationships—that can impact the relationship.
Cognitively, the teen brain is going through a tremendous change. Their frontal lobes are still developing, so they may be more emotional, moody and impulsive. On the other hand, they are more capable of future-oriented thinking. Socially, they are more independent and choose to spend more time with friends. Emotionally, they are learning how to regulate their feelings and feel like they need parents less than ever before. They believe they can find the answers to their stressors with their friends or on their own.
For parents, your teen is moving away from you in a very obvious way as they prepare to enter adulthood. The child you were once able to cuddle with or pick up is now looking at you straight in the eye or is towering over you. Their obvious need for your physical presence and support has diminished, but their need for your emotional support has not, no matter what it looks like.
Their relational needs are less overt and obvious now. They need to know that you can be there for them to check in with, to see how they are doing as they start to mature into an adult. The shift becomes about treating them as an adult, while still remembering their lack of experience and respecting their need for space.
Continue to maintain routines around dinner, homework, work, play, friends, technology, and extracurricular activities.
Encourage them to keep trying when faced with a challenge. Help them set realistic goals and teach them how to work towards them systematically. Remind them that the journey is as important as attaining the goal.
Praise them for their contributions to family, school and community, and acknowledge their accomplishments. This helps build a positive self-image.
Educate them about drugs, sexual activity, and other dangerous behaviors such as driving drunk or texting while driving.
Talk to them about college, work, family, and relationships in a mature manner, so they feel talked to rather than talked down to.
Learn about their interests, music, world views, technology and friends. Read what they read, listen to what they listen to, watch what they watch.
There are a lot of things that can happen at parties (or dances, or the mall). If you ever need to get out, here are ways to that. I will not judge or get mad. I will just be there to help you. We can always talk about whatever happened and figure things out together.
I am here if and when you need me.
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