Family life and parenthood can be a source of great joy. And yet, despite our best efforts to raise great children, most of us find parenthood to be a confusing and frustrating experience at times. Parenting challenges are evident across all developmental stages. The tween and teen stages are notorious for being difficult – as both parents and kids can attest. This developmental stage is full of physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Although parents are still very important, young teens are becoming more independent, defining their own interests and personality, and making more of their own choices about friends, sports or other activities, and school.
Below you’ll find a list of parenting techniques that can foster healthy development and strengthen family relationships. Select strategies that relate to your family and situation and work on them consistently, knowing that things sometimes get harder before they get better.
1. Maintain connections and keep communication lines open:
- Make sure your presence and availability are known, even if it feels like your kids are pushing you away.
- Be honest and direct with your teen when discussing sensitive subjects such as drugs, drinking, smoking, and sex.
- Meet and get to know your teen’s friends.
- Show an interest in your teen’s school life, extracurricular activities, and interests.
- Show affection for your teen. Spend time together doing things you enjoy.
2. Look for opportunities to give them responsibility and let them practice decision-making skills:
- Help your teens make healthy choices while encouraging them to make their own decisions.
- Encourage problem-solving skills by creating opportunities for them to use their own judgment, and be available for advice and support. Help them plan for difficult situations like feeling pressured to have sex, use drugs, or drive with someone under the influence of alcohol.
- Encourage your teen to make good choices about what they post on the Internet, including how much time they spend on games, chat rooms, and instant messaging.
- Discuss your expectations, responsibilities, and other ways of behaving respectfully in public with your teenager, especially when your teen begins working.
3. Minimize power struggles by encouraging an environment of mutual respect:
- Respect your teen’s opinions and take into account their thoughts and feelings. It is important that they know you are listening.
- It is important to set clear expectations and goals, but allow your teen input on how to reach those goals. Regular family meetings can give your teen an opportunity to contribute.
- Celebrate the accomplishments and efforts of your teenager.
- Respect your teen’s need for privacy.
- Hold your child accountable for what you ask, but do so in a way that empowers them to learn from their choices.
- Learn how to be a great listener, empathizer, and question asker. Often, preteens and teens want to know about your own early years; that can be an excellent opportunity to teach and reassure them. Share life stories that demonstrate resilience, such as when you’ve overcome obstacles.
4. Help your teens navigate failures and defeat:
- Avoid the temptation to become overly invested in your teen’s success and rescue them from challenges or intervene with teachers and coaches on their behalf.
- Have faith in your teen’s abilities. Step back and let them handle new responsibilities and learn to succeed on their own.
- Embracing defeat is a crucial skill. Help teens avoid feeling like failure is unacceptable – it’s an inevitable part of life we all experience to some degree.
- Help your teen learn skills for overcoming adversity – it may be the most important life lesson you can share.
- Talk with your teen about their concerns and pay attention to any changes in behavior. When you notice increased sadness or depression, ask if they have had thoughts of suicide. If you ask about suicidal thoughts, it won’t induce those thoughts, but it will let them know that you care about how they are feeling. If needed, seek professional assistance.
5. Encourage behaviors and habits that give your teen a healthy foundation:
- Encourage your teen to get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy, balanced meals.
- Meal time is very important for families. Eating together helps teens make better choices about the foods they eat, promotes a healthy weight, and provides families with opportunities to talk and make memories.
- Set appropriate limits on time and be informed about how screen time can impact physical and mental health.
Parenting solutions that focus on positive parenting have been shown to be effective with many parenting issues and abundant resources are available. Learn more by checking out one of the articles below:
- What is Positive Parenting? (https://positivepsychology.com/positive%20parenting/)
- Parenting and Emotion Coaching at the Gottman Institute (https://www.gottman.com/blog/category/parenting-emotion-coaching/)
- Positive Parenting Tips (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/index.html)
- Helping Families Thrive (https://helpingfamiliesthrive.com/evidence-based-positive-parenting)
- Child Mind Institute (https://childmind.org/article/10-tips-for-parenting-your-pre-teen)
- Positive Parenting Solutions (https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/3-pitfalls-to-avoid-with-your-tween-or-teen)
- Aha! Parenting (https://www.ahaparenting.com/guide/tweens)