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A brief survival guide for parents of teens

MOM,DAUGHTER,ARGUE
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These communication tips can help you strike the right balance between love and firmness.

The stage of development we call adolescence — from about age 12 to age 19 — is characterized by rapid and sometimes unstable changes in the way a teen communicates with his environment. But it’s also an opportunity to establish conflict resolution methods that will be useful for the rest of their lives.

We cannot expect our son or daughter to agree with us 100 percent of the time, since a teen’s goals are often very different from those of his parents. But we can expect him to listen to our proposals and opinions and take them into account, even though he may not always follow them.

Try these approaches for better communication:

Give proposals rather than orders. Propose the conversation instead of imposing it. A conversation where one person speaks and one person just listens can only take place if that person is willing.

Understanding vs. distancing. When our teenagers speak, make an effort to understand them, to think about what they are feeling or thinking. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they say, however.

Offer instead of just demanding. Offer moments and spaces to talk, assuming part of the responsibility for making the communication happen.

Talk about the future. Devote more time and effort to talking about what we would like to happen, what we would do if it happened, how we would like it to happen, etc. Assume that it can happen and that it will probably happen.

When our children grow up, we expect them to increase their responsibility. We hope that they will cooperate in more things, that they will do things on their own initiative, and that they will accept the consequences of their decisions. At the same time, we want to be able to have greater trust in them, in their ability to organize themselves and take care of themselves, and even to take care of the people around them, such as their little siblings.

Responsibility is intimately linked to freedom. When parents see that their children are more responsible, they have less difficulty offering them the confidence and freedom to act and decide according to their criteria. On the flip side, they often become more responsible when they enjoy greater decision-making capacity.

Use what works

Trust between people is a two-way street. It’s very difficult for our teenagers to trust us if they do not feel we trust them. Respecting their need for greater privacy, offering trust is the best way to get it back again.

Give if you want to receive. When we offer to give something to someone, something that’s important or at least attractive to that person, we facilitate a situation that allows us to propose a new exchange. When negotiating with teenagers, it can be very helpful to make a concession in something that is critically important for them, in order to get something that is equally important for the parents. In general, offer freedom in exchange for responsibility and vice versa.

Open communication is key

Teens often struggle to communicate in ways the parents consider effective or valid. Gradually, teens learn to change the way they relate and communicate with others, especially their parents. Teens tend to want to stake out their personal, intimate territory from possible invasions.

We discover that our once chatty teen has become more reserved for no apparent reason. Physical changes during adolescence can also influence their moods. Teens can often have verbally aggressive outbursts when they feel confused or upset. In addition, adolescence is a long process of building up and affirming their personality, self-image, and self-esteem.

Teens can often be critical of some aspects of their lives, and can be both self-critical and self-indulgent in certain situations. This set of characteristics can lead to more conflicts with both parents and siblings.

As children grow into young men and women, the daily transformation can be difficult, not only for the parents, but especially for the teens themselves. The necessary answer during this time is love, patience, firmness, and a wide margin of understanding.

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Parenting
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