Teen years are unpredictable and difficult to deal with. Rebellious behaviour, growth spurts, hormones and so many different changes happen at the same time. As your child grows into adolescence, you need to adapt your parenting skills for a teenager. Teens crave the security of knowing their parents understand them, appreciate them and can be their friend.
Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Psychologist Tripti Choudhary Vaid shares insights into handling delicate issues, and tips on how to create a strong bond with your teenage child.
1. Why does conflict arise as your kids turn into teenagers?
Parenting teenagers require a different approach than parenting children. Adolescence is a confusing period because teens are in between being an adult and a child. Parents expect them to act ‘older’ but treat them like children. This is where the conflict arises.
2. What are the signs of changed behaviours among teenagers?
Adolescence is characterised by many changes in individuals. Predominantly, hormonal changes which could cause a lot of emotional upheaval. This is also an important period of developing an identity for oneself. It is a time when the peer group becomes more important. Therefore, teenagers may value their opinions more, want to hang out with them more, want to experiment with different things and also experience risky behaviours.
3. What is teenage rebellion & how should a parent approach it?
Teenage years are that of experimentation. Sometimes this experimentation may not be acceptable to adults and may cause conflict. Teenage rebellion is just another way of communication. When a teen rebels, try and understand what is he/she really trying to communicate. It is important to discuss things rather than simply instruct them to follow it.
4. How can you handle your teenager’s toxic friends?
Simply dismissing your teen’s friends as toxic may not be the right approach. Also, the opinion of a friend being toxic is the parents perspective of that friend. It is not so for the teen. Therefore, if a parent feels that a particular friend is not a good influence for their teen then they should discuss it with their teen. They should ask what’s keeping their friendship going rather than judging.
5. How to deal with escalations through talking?
The first step is to find a way to calm yourself as a parent. Then wait for your teen to cool down as well. If both the teenager and the parent are emotionally charged then the real point of the disagreement gets lost. Sometimes leaving the room and getting distance may help. Once everyone is calmer, encourage a discussion about it. Listen to what your teenager has to say. Give them a chance to put their perspective forward.
6. How to establish curfews & home rules without creating tension?
Curfews and home rules should be discussed as a family. When these are made jointly then they create a sense of responsibility and have a sense of ownership of the rules. Therefore, they may feel more accountable for it. If a rule was simply made by the parents and enforced on them, there is a greater chance of it getting flouted and causing tension between the parents and the teen.
7. How to answer your teenager’s questions about dating?
If the teenager is asking you questions about dating you should feel happy because you have managed to create an open channel of communication for them. Secondly, answer it as honestly as you can, trying to keep the judgement and the bias of the conversation.
8. When should you be a parent & when should you be a friend to your teenager?
Every parent arrives at this balance after a lot of hits and trials. It is important to understand that teenagers are explorative and experimentative. The best way to be a friend to your teen is by accepting this fact. However, setting boundaries, explaining the consequences of actions, encouraging them to ‘think’ would be where a parent’s role comes in.
9. What is the best way to explain sex & consent to your teenage child?
Having a conversation about sex and consent is very important. More so in today’s context where the teen is able to access a lot of information, which may or may not be correct. Therefore, the purpose of having a chat is so that they can get the correct information. It is better to have the talk as casually as possible, encourage questions, share your own stories about having these questions, etc. Remember that apart from giving information about using protection and being safe, it is of utmost important to explain the concept of love and emotional attachment. If a parent is unable to do it by their own words then there are a lot of resources available in the form of books, videos, and online material from credible sources to help them through it.
10. How should you deal with issues arising out of poor body image & the need to fit in?
Firstly, refrain from judging your own body. Body image issues are very societal in nature. Therefore watch what you communicate about your own body to your kids. Instead of saying ‘You need to lose weight’ put it as ‘we should work towards fitness’. The language that we use with our teenagers is very important. Encourage teens to have some form of physical activity in the day. Be involved in their lives. Have chats about their school, the challenges they are facing, their friends, the kind of music they are listening to, hear their kind of music with them and share your own stories. Don’t be a helicopter parent, but know what’s happening in their lives.
Keep a check on their moods, sleep and appetite changes, social withdrawal, the content they are putting up on social media, or any fearful or really negative things that they might say.
These are some of the things that will give an insight into whether your teen is struggling. If you do find that your teen is struggling, try and help them through it. If you feel that it is something that requires professional expertise, then do reach out to a mental health professional.