During this stage, teenagers exploring relationships, identity, and aspects of life outside of the family home can ultimately turn everyday interactions into a confusing time for parents wishing to maintain a strong, positive relationship. However, finding common ground between both you and your child can be accomplished. But for many parents, it can be difficult to understand this period, and it can be easy to categorize their experiences into phases that have many stereotypes and assumptions that could isolate them as a result. If you find your teenager distancing themselves, here’s our advice for staying connected with them.
The Changes of Puberty and Teen Development
Today, resources in providing access to mental health services and long-term approaches to the cultural and societal influences have created a dynamic, ever-changing world for our teenagers. The physical changes that involve the increase in hormone production bring about mental changes about appearance. Awareness of their future and social environment can bring about emotional changes that result in the development of their reactions to situations. When combined, their cognitive changes heavily increase, allowing them to understand more complex ideas, such as death, family roles, social status, and most of all, their identity. Your child becoming a teenager is, in fact, an exciting new prospect in their lives, but it also takes a lot of time to adjust to these various changes, which can many times lead to conflict on both ends of the relationship.
For parents, the detachment from their child’s experiences can leave many in a state of perpetual confusion, and for teenagers, their broad experiences and life choices can allow them more freedom to learn about the trial and error process of life. Adolescence tends to often cause this separation between parent and child due to varying factors, but for many researchers attempting to track the empirical evidence behind these conflicts and points of separation, articles often cite that a parent-adolescent conflict stems from characteristics of both the child and the parent.
Studies from the Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, for instance, attempted to track down these characteristics and found that a parent’s measures in parenting and that higher-quality parenting interaction attempting to resolve conflicts in a more positive light often predicted more desirable reactions from the adolescence. On the child’s side, their characteristics are often heavily influenced by their younger dispositions during their formative years, and that the parent’s conflict reactions influenced their adolescent reactions as well.
But how, as as a parent, can you provide a safe place for your teenager to connect and grow with you?
Being a Good Parent For Your Teenager
In many ways, your relationship with your teenager must change to accommodate for the various skills and life lessons they learn along the way because these changes can be a rewarding process for both you and them. Being an effective, loving parent takes hard work and dedication towards reaching out, but overall, the most you can do during this time is bring yourself to have the following qualities:
- Show Respect: Recognizing and appreciating their differences can help them establish a sense of independence while also helping you recognize that they are individuals developing their own personalities, interests, and identities. This also brings out compassion, and asking about their interests and engaging with their ideas without condemning them can foster a more positive relationship.
- Support Their Friendships: Friendships are part of one’s growing identity, and while these friendships may represent unfamiliar differences to your home and sense of self, they offer valuable experiences that allow room for growth. Providing support for their friendship, both young and old, can help encourage them to connect more with you.
- Practice Listening Skills: Commanding parental attention, approaching their actions and mistakes and misdeeds, and isolating them from expressing their ideas and interests in favor of your own can only isolate them even more from you and the eventual growth. By opening yourself up to listening when they’re ready, you can both recognize where you both meet and find better ways to connect.
While family therapy can provide techniques to help manage internal and external conflicts, the resulting changes that can be made often require a deeper look at the thought patterns that we often experience and make conscious changes for you both.