By Jennifer Mudarrie, LICSW
It’s back to school time and transitions are often challenging for the whole family but can also provide valuable information as a parent. Parenting a teen may have also snuck up on you and it’s amazing how fast our littles grown up! So, before they hit the books, let’s look at what brings connection to you and your teen as you make your way through the next phase of being a parent. You may only have a few minutes to gather your thoughts as you gear up, so I’ve gathered some quick thoughts and examples to entertain as you enter this new school year.
4 Perspectives for Parenting a Teen
Give them space and really mean it
Teens need a private place to go to that they feel is THIERS. Not yours, theirs. Yup… I know what you’re thinking… you pay the bills so it’s your house BUT if you do this tactfully with boundaries together it can be a meaningful way for your teen to get the sense of control they often feel they don’t have. Remember, you can go to your room too and get space too. Of course, if there is harmful activity or behavior continue to monitor appropriately. Don’t’ be afraid to speak to a therapist or medical professional to get help if you’re concerned.
Be available for validation
It’s important to state things that you can observe that are independent driven.
For example: You noticed your teen was being a thoughtful person in this house. You could say, “I noticed that you saw that the dishes had to be done and you did it without being asked. Thank you. It helps me feel you care about the house and my feelings living here too.” This simple moment is teaching them relationship management skills, independence, and that they have an impact to those around them.
Show love consistently – even when responsibilities are forgotten
Yes, it can sound hard to show love when things are not getting done or mistakes happen. Try and look at it from your teen’s perspective. For example, you may notice trash covering the floor in your teens room. Try approaching the conversation by saying, “I can only imagine how hard school was for you just getting back into things. I trust you and I know I can count on you to remember to help with the trash. What do you think we should do together so you can oversee it? Even if you don’t do the trash, I will still think you are valuable and loved regardless. It just still needs to get done.” This highlights the importance of showing trust but still holding them accountable.
Hold yourself accountable to your shortcomings
You’re a person with feelings and you had your own upbringing that impacts how you may be doing things today. Check in with yourself and see what areas you want to keep or work on. For example, maybe growing up your family had very specific ways of handling meals and it’s a trigger for you when your teen wants to eat alone. You could approach that conversation by saying, “Growing up, we always had family dinner and we were expected to eat what was made. We didn’t get to choose or have input in what we made. I realize as I look at my own parenting, I am asking you to help me make it so that we are doing something together. This makes me feel like you are contributing to the household meal at the time and that feels better than what I was given and experienced.”
Remember to check yourself and say, what’s more important to me during these upcoming transitions? Ask yourself:
- What do I want to keep doing or how do I feel about this?
- Is this how I want to parent?
- What is the end result?
By evaluating your own part in the dynamic, you are keeping the value of spending time together as a high priority without focusing on control and perfection.
Ending thoughts for the parent of teens
Parenting can always bring up new challenges and responsibility shifts that we may not always be prepared for. Focus on what you want to teach your teen and how you want to connect through this school year. Try to implement some of these strategies to ensure that you are showing them: you trust them, they can still come to you, and you’re proud of them. These are critical lessons each person needs to feel valued.
About Jennifer Mudarrie, LICSW: Jennifer is a psychotherapist with nearly two decades of experience in the mental health field based. She provides individual and family counseling, movement-based healing, clinical supervision and facilitates various workshops in the community with other multi-disciplinary professional providers.