Lots of us have teenagers and for those that don’t, yet, you will! Before this, you’ll think that the terrible twos, the constant questions or the sleepless nights are soooo difficult, however nothing quite prepares you for the teenage years!
With many teenagers becoming increasingly stressed, it's no surprise we often feel the pressure too. Sound familiar? Here's some ideas on how you can help your teenager cope:
Try to stay calm: When parents are struggling with work/home/family issues, we can raise our child's stress levels, because emotions are contagious and create atmospheres. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you talk to your teenagers about it, if you can, so they understand why. This can also kick start their ability to link emotions to behaviour, helping them to empathise with others later on.
Be proactive: If you are feeling anxious and worried about their future, your children naturally pick up on your non-verbal communication signals (sighs, eye rolls, hand wringing). Worry is rooted in fear, resulting in the brain focusing on what might happen if things go wrong. Teenagers can easily misunderstand communication signals. Try to replace lectures with short conversations about Their Future, with a "Can we talk through...?" kind of approach. This can help encourage future collaboration and team playing.
Keep talking: Keeping lines of communication open is vital. I know that teenagers don’t always want to talk but knowing they can and that it won’t turn into a lecture makes all the difference. Children are encouraged to learn by having opinions/views, argue/debate, weigh up & decide. Growing up and becoming independent means being able to know where you stand on key issues, which in turn will help you to make decisions for yourself. My 3 couldn’t be more different! One loves Art, the other is super sporty, the youngest plays cello, guitar and piano and they all can’t believe that the others don’t like their particular passion and sexuality, well that’s a whole blog in itself!
Gain a focus: Once your child has started to express their opinions, we can help teenagers to create a focus on their own interests by encouraging them to talk and share their views. The area of their brain, which will boost motivation and energy levels, is kick started through curiosity.
Encourage good routines: this one is tricky!! Daytime TV and screen time can zap motivation & enthusiasm, because it interferes with dopamine in the brain. Encourage your teenager to limit screen time. Easier said than done, I know!!
Tempting as it is to micro manage/push/advise when your child is facing life decisions, aim to get them in the driving seat, taking responsibility and thinking things through. I struggled to learn this one, but got there in the end. (I think!) My stand out example ( although there are many 😳) is when I tried to persuade my eldest to go to Oxbridge like some of their friends! They resisted but we spent many hours “discussing” the reasons that I thought they should!! I “lost” and they received an unconditional offer to attend their 1st choice university, to study, illustration for graphic novels! After a couple of weeks they called and said “I’ve met the people that I’ve been waiting to meet all my life!” My next 2 children benefitted greatly, from my life lesson here!
Expect mistakes and failures: Children will get things wrong: we all do. By letting them try new things it will help boost their confidence. My motto has always been if you don’t try you don’t know! Whether that’s food, activities etc, etc. We can help them learn and grow by encouraging them to try and try again.
Focus on their strengths: identify your child's skills (kind/good with people), interests (enjoys sport/countryside) hobbies (artistic/practical/music.) This boosts confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Allow time and encourage them to join in anything (preferably not screen based) which they enjoy.
This all sounds doable doesn’t it?!
We know that hormones, peer pressure, I know it all and you know nothing attitudes, all impact our relationships through these, sometimes troublesome years, but just stick in there. Keep talking, when they let you, keep hugging, when they let you. Keep the faith and your often, fractious teenagers will emerge as kind and loving young adults. In the end! 💕