We have talked about the challenge of getting teens to listen, having them conform to some basic expectations and handling the struggle between control and independence.
If you have a teen, then the term “conflict” is no stranger. As we said, conflict is normal in a parent – teen relationship. But how do we manage the conflict, enforce expectations and still allow for growth?
Parents set limits, teens push them. It’s part of the growing process. That’s how teens become independent, fully functioning adults. Your job is to honor the struggle for independence and still ensure your son or daughter is safe. There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success.
Prioritize Your Expectations
Communicate. Make sure you define some expectations but stick with the important ones. Dismiss others. Whether or not your teen continues to leave shoes in the middle of the floor or homework strewn all over the bedroom floor is not as important as whether a college application gets submitted by the deadline. Every parent has different challenges, and you know yours the best. Review your list and decide what is important and what can be let go. It is in this process that you gain a sense of control and relief.
Listen. Provide opportunities to your teen (lots of them and various ones) for self-expression. Have a conversation over coffee. Ask questions, including those that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no. Think about what you’re going to ask ahead of time so you can generate real dialogue. And to repeat, listen to the responses.
There’s No Rush
Be patient. Change comes slowly. Often words also come slowly in a parent – teen conversation. Look for the right moment to spark a conversation. Watch for signs of joy and struggle in your teen. Be open to communication opportunities, and allow ample time for a thoughtful, meaningful and open exchange.
Be reassuring. Your teen may not say much; he or she may not thank you for what you do on a daily basis. However, you can be an anchor in your son or daughter’s life. You can be a dependable partner and a calming voice. Having parents who are stable, available, loving and who serve as positive role models is incredibly important to the development of healthy children.
Give and Take
Be understanding. This is a difficult one. But it is important to understand that kids need to create their own independence. Your job is to balance the desire for independence with a certain level of responsibility. The more responsibility they demonstrate, the more independence you can allow.
Be supportive. Growing up is hard. So is setting the stage and providing some direction. Your teen may be going through doubts, anxiety and uncertainty. However, s/he is also a terrific, intelligent, capable individual who needs the space to explore, to take “roads less traveled” and to grow.