Parenting a teen can be a complicated business, it can be hard knowing how to cut the apron strings. Many a parent face a daily internal battle trying to decide how much advice to give their teen verses letting them learn a life lesson and then having to help them to pick up the pieces.
On top of that I get asked by parents how to help a teenager (who is doing their best to withdraw from their parents) make the best choices to succeed in their first steps into adulthood. So here are my top 5 tips.
- Use listening differently
During this period of their lives, your children are going through a whole succession of changes in their brain. So apart from trying to spread their wings and form a new identity, they are also likely to be unresponsive to your attempts to talk or perceive everything as a threat.
Therefore, the key is to listen. There are some simple steps to good effective listening:
- Make them feel safe, don’t make them feel persecuted: have a conversation whilst you do something else together, like drive somewhere
- Rather than ask a question, say “I wonder…”
- Use silence, rather than try to fill in the gaps or make suggestions, just let the silence grow and make it alright for them to fill that silence (by not answering your own question).
- Screen-free days
For young people nowadays, using a screen is a way of life (for many of us adults it is too). Take the time to ensure that they recognise how to look after their own wellbeing by having periods of time away from screens. It’s hard for the first couple of times, but actually over time it gives people a real sense of freedom. It also encourages them to walk away from their technology when they are annoyed, frustrated or angry about something (which is a lesson that many people on social media need to learn!).
- Have the social media conversation
Yes, that one! More than likely your teen will have a separate online persona, and much as you love the cute pictures of them, it may be time to make sure they are saved on your computer, rather than online for the world to see. Be open and upfront with them about which pictures they don’t mind you leaving on there.
- Talk about who inspires you (including them)
You may not be the coolest parent in the world, looking up to you may be the last thing on their mind, but how about the people you look up to? This is an interesting conversation that leads to some extraordinary places. They may be very different, but the reasons behind the picks can be very similar.
- Don’t talk about what job they want, talk about the problem they want to solve
By asking them what problem they want to solve, you will have an entirely different conversation than you trying (often unsuccessfully) to try and find a job. The concept of ‘career’ as you had it when you were younger is changing, the modern world is changing that and the traditional route of university followed by career is rapidly changing in the eyes of many young people.
For more information on helping your teen with job hunting, check out my blog post here.
Richard has co-written the book Boosting Positive Mental Health in Teens with children’s life coach Naomi Richards, and is author of the forthcoming book The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World.