Parenting teens can be one of the greatest challenges parents will face. The role of the parent at these times is to improve and support the child’s self-esteem while allowing them to develop into independent critical thinkers with a set of values in place. Parents should give teenagers the ability to make some of their own choices such as friends and attire. It’s also critical that parents learn to use teachable moments to instill values without lecturing.

To better understand a teen consider what developments are happening in their minds and in their bodies. Hormones are the main cause of problems in teens. The rush of emotions felt can be overwhelming and confusing and the awkward changes in their bodies can sometimes lead to embarrassment. Mom and Dad’s should understand that sometimes the teen is just emotional and therefore easily agitated. If you can recognize the issue is really only a minor problem then you should resign to choosing your battles and let the mood run its course.

Inside a young teen’s mind, the brain is developing critical thinking skills. They are learning the ability to think abstractly. This means they will be thinking in terms of what ifs and why? Things are no longer black and white; they begin to see a spectrum. Expect that they will challenge many things including authority, politics, and religion.

Along these lines of thinking the humanness of their parents comes to light. Mom and Dad are capable of making mistakes. This can be jolting to some teens, while others see it as a challenge. They may try and catch you “slipping up” as a parent and call you on it. Just remember you are human, but you are also the adult.

As you were once the center of their world, their view begins to shift. They see other people’s lives and views as they interact with peers and gain knowledge about their surrounding environment. They now see an array of opinions and ideas aside from the ones they know. This means they will challenge their parents often. It’s totally normal for teenagers to test the boundaries. They are trying to expand their world and grow as an individual.

So how does a parent handle all of this? First and foremost parents need to learn how to actively listen. Active listening means you stop what you are doing, look at your child and give them your full attention. After they have spoken comment on what you have interpreted and give them a chance to verify that is what they meant.

Involve teens in discussions, use open ended questions to help them open up to you. For example ask what they think or how they feel about a situation. Give them positive routes to discuss their thoughts and avoid negative or threatening comments. Statements like “You are too young to understand” and “Don’t come crying to me when you mess up” only shut the doors of communication with your teen.

Power struggles between parents and teenagers can come as a surprise and often result in anger or hurt feelings in either party.  Never yell or scream at your teen, these struggles are totally normal and should be handled with positive discipline. Just remember teenage years are the intense and laborious years for the parent and the child but both have to same goal- for the child to turn into a happy, confident adult.

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