How to Navigate the Challenges of Parenting Teens

Father and teenager son playing video games.

Parenting in a Shifting Landscape

One thing about parenting is that it is everchanging. Just when you’ve got one stage under control, your kids move on to the next one, and you have to relearn the job all over again. The teenage years are one of the most challenging stages, because it comes with so much change, as your teens transition from children to adults. These years are hard on everyone. They’re hard on the teenagers because they are going through so many changes, and hard on you as a parent because of your changing relationship with your egocentric teen.  How can you support your child and ease the transition, while maintaining a good relationship?

Understanding Your Teen’s Mind

The teen years are a time of breaking away from childhood attachments and forming an independent identity. Your teens may cycle through activities, interests, peer groups, and mindsets, in search of a persona they feel is authentic. Managing all of this through hormonal changes, while overcoming insecure feelings about their bodies, can be extremely challenging. Many teens are intensely self-critical and self-doubting, and this negative self-perception can lead them to spend time alone and avoid their parents. Hyperconscious of all of these changes, parents may begin to criticize and question more than before, and be more suspicious and protective, because of their own anxiety. The anxiety is understandable. Teenagers take risks, act like they don’t care, and lie to, pick fights with, and manipulate their parents. If parents can take a step back from their own anxious feelings, recognize that transitions are natural, and remember what it’s like to be a teenager, this time will be a little bit easier. It can also make conflict with your teens easier if you recognize that teens who are comfortable enough to be contentious with their parents are actually displaying trust. If you can reign in your instinct to demand obedience and instead be willing to debate issues, it will foster respect in your relationship.

Providing Support During Transitions

One of the best things you can do for your teens, as they’re navigating this challenging landscape of change, is to be supportive. Understand that your teens have a lot of big feelings, and be willing to listen without judgement. As much as possible try to maintain steady routines, and encourage your teen to focus on healthy habits, like getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and managing stress. Offer your teens the chance to voice their opinions and make choices, but maintain rules and boundaries so that your kids feel secure and know what to expect. Counter your teens’ anxiety by reminding them of past accomplishments and successes, and try to manage your own anxiety in a way that keeps it separate from theirs.

Guiding With Empathy and Encouragement

It is easy, as adults to forget how intense things felt when we were teenagers. The challenges teens face today are different than those of past generations, but the physical and social changes are similar, and if you listen, you might discover that your teen is facing some of the same difficulties that you experienced when you were a teenager. Be mindful of this, and try to extend some grace. Maintaining empathy for your teen can help you stay connected, and if you can talk to your teens about some of your experiences, they may be more willing to listen to your viewpoints. When kids are little, they respond to positive reinforcement and praise, and these tactics are just as impactful for teens. Work on helping your teens build their self-confidence, focusing on their positive characteristics and helping them to cultivate a sense of self-compassion. Encouraging them to help others through acts of service can also help them feel better about themselves and give them a sense of purpose.

Navigating Conflict

One thing common during the teen years is clashing with parents. Fortunately, these conflicts do not mean that the relationship is weak. Teens may rebel against authority, parents try to clamp down and preserve their authority, and this escalates the conflict. It is important to understand that teens pick fights over everyday issues because they see them as deeper problems that challenge their identity. Limitations on their activities may be seen as a lack of trust or a challenge to their maturity, and this can trigger self-doubts that cause the teen to respond with anger. It is important for parents to listen to their teens and help guide them toward the right decisions, rather than setting unenforceable limits and causing teens to rebel and distance themselves further. Keep the lines of communication open can help let teenagers know that they can go to their parents for support and validation.

Staying Connected

It can be difficult to stay connected to your teenagers, when they keep their heads down, looking at their phones, and then lock themselves in their rooms without talking to you. Keep engaging, so that your teens know you’re a safe space and someone they can come to with issues. Recognize that physically distancing from you is a developmentally appropriate move for a teenager, and their self-imposed solitude allows them the time and space to try out some autonomy, spend time in introspection, learn to regulate their moods, and figure out who they are. Keep trying, modifying your connection to meet your teenager’s life stage. If your teenager is pulling away physically, try giving pats on the back instead of snuggles. Keep saying I love you, even if your teen doesn’t say it back. Stay accessible and available, because even when your teens seem to be pulling away, they still need their parents’ love and guidance.

Support for Your Family as it Grows

We hope these tips will help you to guide your teenagers and promote harmony in your home as your family grows. At the Center for Vasectomy Reversal, we love helping people grow their happy families. We pride ourselves on helping men improve their fertility through uncompromising, concierge-level patient care. Under the direction of Dr. Joshua Green, our team provides state-of-the-art treatment for men who need a reversal of their vasectomy or have other fertility concerns. To learn more, contact us through our website or call 941-894-6428.