Parenting Skills: Adolescence

Parenting  |  October 4, 2018 | Pennsylvania Counseling Services, Inc.

adolescence
noun
the period of human development that starts with puberty (10–12 years of age) and ends with physiological maturity (approximately 19 years of age). During this period, major changes occur in physical characteristics, self-esteem, thinking abilities, social developments, desire for independence and sexual awareness.
DICTIONARY.APA.ORG/ADOLESCENCE

Overview

The adolescent years can be a trying time for parents and adolescents alike. Adolescence is an awkward stage–a time of confusing transition between childhood and adulthood. As adolescents experience significant physical and emotional changes, they’re also tasked with the challenge of building their identity.

Adolescence is marked by confusion and insecurity, often acted out as withdrawal, anger, ambivalence, low self-esteem or frustration. During this time, it’s important that adolescents feel free to vent these emotions at home. Without this opportunity for expression, they may act out at school, at home or with friends.

It’s normal for adolescents to want to distance themselves from their family in attempt to gain acceptance from peers and to question the values and standards of family and society. As adolescents distance themselves, parents often express concern by wanting to be close to their adolescent, which creates conflict and tension.

Just as adolescents feel insecure, parents feel insecure as well. Many parents wonder if their child is prepared for the temptations and challenges ahead. When conflicts arise, parents feel angry, frustrated, anxious and inadequate. As a parent, adolescence can be difficult to navigate, but here are six tips to help you build a better relationship during your child’s adolescent years.

6 Tips

TIP #1: ALLOW GREATER FREEDOM

Keep in mind the goal of parenting: to raise mature, competent and responsible adults who are able to function in our complex world.

Expect that your adolescent will make mistakes–even big mistakes–on occasion. As adolescents try out new roles and experiment with different behaviors to find the peer group they fit in with, they become especially susceptible to peer pressure. It takes confidence and identity to say no to peer pressure, both of which adolescents are in the process of developing.

Although watching a child make poor decisions is often painful and scary, this shouldn’t signal parents to take control. Instead, parents should reinforce standards of behavior to communicate the belief that the teenager is growing and learning through their mistakes.

EXAMPLE: Your son starts hanging out with a new friend group. He stops turning in homework on time and gets caught cheating on an exam with these new friends. Rather than forbidding him from being friends with them, you remind him of other instances you’ve seen his trustworthy character (like when he plays fair on the baseball field). By reinforcing positive standards of behavior, you’re helping to strengthen his identity in trustworthy character, so next time, he’ll know he has the strength to say no to cheating on an exam.

TIP #2: RESPECT THEIR DECISONS

Give options, not ultimatums. Parents must choose which areas they can and should have control of in their adolescent’s life. It’s counterproductive to struggle for control when it’s impossible to monitor behavior at all times.

EXAMPLE: Rather than stopping your daughter from spending time with a friend, you say, “I prefer that you hang out with a different friend, but I respect your right to choose your own friends, and I trust that you’ll use good judgement.”

TIP #3: RESPECT THEIR BOUNDARIES

Recognize the emotions and opinions that your teen is entitled to versus the behaviors that affect other people.

EXAMPLE: Your daughter is furious with her younger sister who won’t stop poking her. She stops scrolling through her phone, looks her younger sister in the eyes and shouts, “If you touch me one more time, I’m pushing you off this couch!” Rather than sending her to her room for shouting at her sister, you say, “You have every right to be angry at your sister for invading your privacy, but I will not tolerate you acting out your anger by pushing her.”

TIP #4: COOL OFF

When disciplining your adolescent, remember that the purpose is to teach, not to give revenge. Parents are responsible for keeping the situation under control. If your conversation is becoming explosive, take time to cool off, determine the best intervention to help your adolescent learn from the situation and approach the problem again.

TIP #5: LISTEN TO YOUR ADOLESCENT

If you believe your adolescent is rebelling, take time to find out what’s bothering them. A good relationship will help them understand that you’re on their team and the rules you’re giving are for their good.

TIP #6: SEEK HELP

There are times when parents are dong all the above, and their adolescent’s behavior continues to digress. This may indicate a more serious problem, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse. In this case, it may be best to seek the help of a counselor or therapist.

If you or someone you needs help managing adolescence, we can help. Check out our child & adolescent services page for a full range of treatment options for children, adolescents, young adults and families.