Adolescence is generally considered a turbulent time for the teen as well as the family as it is a time for forging one’s individuality, testing one’s emerging life skills and asserting one’s options and independence. These are important life skills but parents also worry about the change in habits, lifestyle, peer pressure, risk taking and defiance which put a strain on the parent-child relationship. Peer pressure exerts a strong pressure at this age. Teens emulate behavior they see around them, particularly in their peer group and their role models and can lead to generation clashes.
- For parents, what would help is to remain calm and patient. Nagging and constant reminders usually elicit an adverse reaction.
- Teens are usually impatient, critical of authority and quick to judge. Teenagers hate to be talked down to, or made to feel childish / inadequate, and crave to be accepted as grownups. Give responsibilities that s/he can carry out so that you can acknowledge and praise him/her for exhibiting mature behavior. Solicit her/his advice, opinion on various topics, talk to her/him as an equal.
- Most teens are disorganized, dislike planning and have poor time management. Instead of a daily battle, it would help to talk to the child together on a week end and have him agree to maintain a certain schedule. This will have to be probably negotiated and prioritized. If both parents and child can get to agree on the top 3 or 4 areas in which planning and maintaining a schedule is required, that’s a great beginning.
- Make sure your interaction is not focused only on the negatives – pointing mistakes, criticizing and giving advice. Enjoy the time you have together as individuals too.
- Adopt a ‘problem solving’ rather than ‘fault-finding’ approach
- A collaborative approach is more acceptable, e.g. ‘I’ll clean up my room and you do yours. When we are both done, we can do…….’ [A shared activity of interest to you both].
- Avoid generalizations such as ‘Never’ ‘Always’ and accusations such as ‘Why do I always have to tell you…..’ or ‘You never…’ [If you truly reflect upon it, these statements are untrue]
- Good old advice of lists, to-do’s, notes, alarm clock, checklists still work. It gives a teen the satisfaction to tick, cross-off something that needed to be done. At the same time, these lists tend to be neglected after some time if the parent does not acknowledge or reward when done. Make a big deal of the done lists, celebrate!
- Do not expect perfection, or you will be disappointed! The aim should be to work for small, specific and perceptible improvements.
Adolescence being a transition hase from childhood to adulthood is fraught with many dangers and pitfalls for the individual and caregivers. If you can develop a positive and proactive relationship with your child, you will be able to withstand the stress and strain of parenting a teen and you can savor the joy of watching him/her grow into a productive and happy adult!Dr. Sulata Shenoy