Many times I’ve heard parents of teenagers sharing frustrations about their kids “just being a teenager” or wishing for that phase of childhood to pass. This stage of life is a difficult transition for everyone in the family. If we’re honest, loving your teenager can be hard. Their hormones are raging, they experience mood swings and seemingly want nothing to do with family. This may be how they behave, but truthfully, teenagers are in a state of internal struggle. They still yearn to be loved by their parents but are also fighting for autonomy.
The struggle between wanting parenting and autonomy makes loving your teenager hard. However, this is a very common internal struggle for this development stage. It becomes even more complicated when teens are bombarded with social media, increasing academic expectations, friend rejections and dealing with their experiences of life. The American Psychological Association conducted a survey in 2014 that indicated 30% of adolescents reported feeling sad, overwhelmed or anxious.
How can you help your teen?
Loving your teenager is hard when they push you away. Parents can often feel defeated and fearful for their teenagers due to their unpredictable moods and behaviors.
Loving your teenager can be easier using these tools. You can help them live a happier, healthier lifestyle and experience more connection with you.
Loving Your Teenager by Showing Affection
This is difficult for parents. Adolescents often push parents away and seek validation from friends. Teenagers still need hugs of encouragement, a pat on the back, or the verbal recognition of love or pride. Loving teenagers means just that, show love, state love and most of all, model love. A little “thanks,” “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you” can go a long way.
Put the phone down.
In this technology driven world, everything is at our fingertips and kids don’t want to miss a thing. Let’s be real, it’s not just the kids. Parents can be seen on their phones during dinner – fielding emails that interrupt family time, or responding to text messages during nighttime routines. Create a “no tech” time for the entire family where conversation is a necessity. You will get eye rolls and some push back. Don’t back down! This habit will allow for secure attachment and closeness within your relationship, making loving your teenager even easier.
Empathize, but don’t explain.
Parents tend to try to relate to their teen by talking about the good ol’ days, “When I was your age…” This can appear as lecturing instead of relating. Empathizing allows them to talk about their situation and feel heard and validated. This opens the door for your teen to keep talking, and helps them to create their own solution. Saying things such as, “I’m so sorry this is hard for you,” or “Friendships can be difficult, or ‘I’m sorry you’re hurting” can help.
If only there were a one size fits all instruction book on loving teenagers, parenting, and communicating, life would be so much easier. Fortunately, there are people who can help. I have several colleagues at Family Therapy Associates who specialize in treating teens and their families. Click here to learn more.
What’s your favorite way to show your teenager love?