By Jessica Burrows, MA, LPC, CFLE
Let’s face it, having teenagers is hard. Really hard! They still need parental guidance and leadership yet want nothing to do with their parents all at the same time. As a mother of a preteen and after many years of working with teenagers–I get it. It’s a challenge to know exactly what to say, what to do, and how to maintain a strong relationship. They need us to guide them, mentor them, listen to them and yearn for our attention, even when they don’t act like it. Here are a few tips to have a strong relationship with your teen while also fostering their independence and preparing them for the great big world we live in:
Spend quality time with them doing things THEY love doing. As a counselor that specializes in working with teens one of the first things I do when meeting with a client for the first time is to learn their interests. Once I am able to learn their interests and hobbies, I can create a therapeutic technique that includes their interests. For example, for Christmas our daughter and our two nieces got a Nintendo switch and we discovered the joy that a good game of Super Mario Brothers can bring. We spent hours with them laughing and sharpening our gaming skills. Our daughter was surprised that we were actually good at Mario, but hey… that was out when we were her age! After our nieces returned home for the holiday, we went out and bought our own. We have spent countless hours connecting with our daughter through video games and she genuinely enjoys it and we get to be kids again.
Give them Space. After a long day of school it can be instinctive to want to know every detail of your teenager’s life, I get it. I also want to know every detail. Was it good? Was it bad? Is she happy? Did she get good grades? However, a full day at school can be very overstimulating and they need to be able to decompress and just ride in the quiet. Not every kid needs downtime, but I can assure you from counseling that a lot do! They secretly desire their quiet space but don’t know how to tell their parents they just need a minute to reset and unwind. Imagine how you feel when you have had a long day at work and get in your car. I know for me, it is refreshing to just ride in the quiet, listen to music and process my day.
Instead of getting caught up in the emotions of teenage exploration for independence and feeling left behind, become a part of it. Start by giving more and more freedom in order for them to mature. By slowly allowing your teen to experience independence they will be more adept to handle the stress and freedom that goes along with college and life after high school. Let your teen know that with freedom comes responsibility and that they will be held accountable for their actions. This does not mean you should hang the freedom over their head but rather use the freedom as a building opportunity to grow closer to your child.
Jessica Burrows, MA, LPC, CFLE specializes in teens and young adults who struggle with anxiety, depression, and self-injury. She is the owner of NextGen Counseling, PLLC. For more information regarding the services NextGen Counseling, PLLC located in Flower Mound may provide for you or your loved one please call 940-228-2171 or visit www.nextgencounseling.org.