The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Any parent whose child has crossed into their teen years knows how difficult parenting teens can be.
Teens can be moody, unpredictable and defiant. They can ping pong between being exquisitely sensitive in one moment, and cold and withdrawn in the next. Meanwhile, they’re beginning to occupy the bodies of adults — and to take on adult responsibilities — while making decisions with a brain that is, in many ways, still child-like.
It’s enough to test any parent, and it’s no surprise that many counseling and parenting coaching clients need a little support with parenting teens. And it’s important that they get it — the wrinkles that can develop in relationships between teens and their parents can last well into adulthood, without the right care.
If you’re the parent of a teen, this article is for you. I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. My guest is Kanya D, a marriage and family therapist and parenting coach here at Growing Self. As the mother of two teens herself, she truly understands this challenge from all sides, and has some excellent advice you’re going to want to hear. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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The brain undergoes major changes in our teenage years, and these changes often lead to surprising shifts in a teen’s personality. Even the sweetest, most mild-mannered kids can suddenly grow a little snarky and obstinate when they become teens.
All of this rapid change can be crazy-making for parents. If your teen seems like a different person overnight, know that many parents have been where you are. Fortunately for all of us, the radical growth of our teen years doesn’t last forever.
Parenting Today’s Teens
In the midst of the pandemic, there’s been a dramatic increase in teens suffering mental health crises. The pressures to be a high academic achiever and get into the best schools haven’t eased up, even as the fun activities that once gave teens an emotional release valve have fallen away.
Two years of a pandemic seems like an eternity for all of us, but for teens, this period represents an enormous chunk of their lives. Coupled with ongoing racial injustice, school shootings, and climate collapse, a lot of teens feel serious stress and anxiety about the future.
Today’s teens need more emotional support from their parents and the people who love them as they come of age through multiple crises.
How Teens Grow
Teens mature physically much faster than they mature cognitively. The human brain takes about 25 years to finish developing, which means your teens will probably have graduated from college before they’re mentally adults.
This can really frustrate parents, when a person who’s taller than they are is still making decisions that seem child-like. Always keep your child’s true maturity level in mind, rather than expecting them to act as adult as they’re beginning to look.
Kids are often afraid to come to their parents about serious issues, because they’re worried about getting in trouble or being forbidden from hanging out with certain friends. This can leave teens navigating really difficult things all by themselves.
When your teen comes to you with something serious, try to put the consequences aside and put the focus on your relationship with them. Of course teens need limits and boundaries from their parents, but it’s even more important that they always know they can come to their parents for support and guidance when something is wrong.
What Teens Need Most From Their Parents
What teens really need from their parents is someone who can teach them how to care for themselves. This aspect of parenting starts long before their teen years, and continues after they leave your home.
Teach them good self-care habits, how to communicate, how to set healthy boundaries, and how to function as an independent adult in the world. This builds their confidence and sets them up for a happy, healthy life.
Communication Between Parents and Teens
Keeping your attachment to your teen secure is the most important thing you can do as a parent.
Teenages occasionally push their parents away, and it can be hurtful. They may withdraw, shut down, and refuse to share with you at times. Just like a little kid will run away from their parent on the playground and eventually come rushing back, your teen will return, as long as you remain an open, emotionally safe person for them to talk to. The back and forth may seem totally unpredictable, and that’s because they’re splitting between the worlds of a child and an adult.
When they do want connection and support from you, welcome them back with open arms.
Keeping Teens Safe
Any teen’s behavior can be erratic and strange, but there are a few signs of serious trouble to look out for.
If your child withdraws from friendships and family relationships, dramatically changes their eating habits, is listening to a lot of sad music, and appears down a lot of the time, they may be depressed and possibly even at risk of suicide.
If you’re worried about them, don’t accept “I’m fine” as an answer. Trust your gut and get them help.
Parenting Modern Teens
The most important part of parenting teens is maintaining a safe, open relationship with your child. Yes, it’s even more important than controlling their behavior or making sure they’re successful in school.
Put your relationship with your teen first, and the rest will come much more easily.
Parenting Teens Podcast Spotlights
[04:38] The Pressure of Modern Teen
- Well-meaning parents say and do hurtful things to their children without realizing it.
- The suicide rate of teens has gone in up the past two years, and the rate for teenage girls is significantly higher than for boys.
- Hardworking teens are pressured to achieve unrealistic academic success.
[10:19] Parenting Today’s Teens
- Teenagers have almost unlimited access to information today compared to before.
- Adolescents nowadays need emotional support and safety to address their overwhelming anxiety.
[16:59] Parenting Out of Control Teens
- Teenagers tend to think with their emotions and feelings.
- Parents are encouraged to ask their children open-ended questions and listen and respond without judgment.
- When adolescents vent about their dangerous participation, listen to them with an open mind.
[27:53] What Teens Need Most From Their Parents
- Parents need to model their kids from a young age by teaching them essential habits and skills.
- Taking accountability for your actions and apologizing to your children will reduce the risks of early woundings.
- Children can sometimes dismiss their parents for space. But when they come back, accept them with open arms.
[39:08] Figuring Out the Communication Between Parents and Teens
- Setting boundaries is crucial between teens and parents.
- Find common ground when communicating with teens.
- Keep the line of communication open for your children.
Kanya is a therapist and coach with more than 20 years of experience in helping couples develop deeply loving and satisfying relationships, helping parents and families thrive, and helping individuals reclaim their happiness.
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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