Often parents will say they had a great relationship with their child until they became a teenager. Many of us will know every move our child makes up to the end of primary school and then suddenly they begin second level. There are many changes that you could be facing – you may no longer be taking them to school, they may be getting public buses, there is a wider catchment area for the school so you no longer know the parents. All these factors can lead to parents becoming just as anxious as the child about the start of secondary school. At this stage the key to survival is realising that you can’t control your child. Your role is to teach them responsibility and allow them the opportunity to be responsible.
Here are some steps you can take to support a positive relationship with your teen:
- Trust them, you have had 12 years of hand holding and now it is time to start letting go.
- Expect your child to be responsible. You will not know what they are capable of until you let them try. Support them to be responsible by allowing them the space to make up their own minds.
- Meet them where they are at. If it seems like they are not able for the level of responsibility you offer, draw back a little and start again.
- Talk ‘with’ them, not ‘at’ them. Try to hear what they have to say. Let them express their opinions, don’t react, just listen.
- Do not jump in with your answers. Support them to explore the issue they have and to come up with reasonable solutions to it. Allow them make the decision on how they move forward and address their problem.
- Take time to be present to them. Sit with them and watch what they like to watch. Be available to them as much as you can. The more time you spend in their company the more you will understand their world. It is more complex than you might imagine.
- Do not trivialise their issues. Life can be very complicated and they need your support to find their way through it.
- Remember, they are now growing up, in a few years they may move out. Question what you are doing with them and for them. Is it the right thing? Are you still treating them like children, but expecting them to behave like teenagers?
- Value what they have to say. Ask their opinion on family matters and issues within society. You may be surprised what you learn about your teenager. It is healthy to get them talking about how they feel and how they see the world.
- Try to say ‘yes’ to what they need and explore with them how they can achieve it. While we have to be realistic and responsible with what we allow them to have, we can also enable them to gain extra things they want. At times it can feel like our children think we have an endless supply box. As parents, we have to remember that teenagers can be very self absorbed, their world is far more important than ours, but it is how we share our worlds that decides how lifelong bonds can be formed.
Staying separate from their issues is very important. Explore with them but do not become immersed in their life. Allow them space and some freedom within reasonable limits and with clear boundaries. Enjoy your teenager, in a few short years your work will be done and they will fly off to be their own person. If you create good relationships now you can be sure they will always come back to you for support throughout their life journey.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Build and Maintain a Close Relationship with Your Teenager
LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Thursday 17 September from 5pm-6pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.
Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.