Preserving the Relationship with our Teenagers

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Kaashifa King* writes

In every Positive Parenting Skills Training, The Parent Centre always start with a reflection of challenges that parents face. And it will come as no surprise that dealing with teenagers always features strongly.

On a broader scale, in the parenting world, there is nothing that gets parents on edge, ruffles their feathers, creates knots in their stomachs and ignites robust and passionate chats, quite like raising teenagers.

Most of us parent the way we were parented, thus there are a few factors that influence how we parent when our children reach their teens:

  1. We get amnesia, not only do we forget what we got up to when we were teenagers, we forget our own turbulent emotions and feelings during those critical years
  2. When we do reflect on our own teenage behaviour and rebelliousness and the trouble that we got into, we usually become the type of parents who would do anything in our power to protect our teenagers from experiencing the same thing.
  3. We mostly remember how our own parents controlled us and even though we don’t mean to, we instinctively do the same, even though we hated it at that time.
  4. We recall how “good” we were and wonder why our children can’t be more like we were.

 …in the parenting world, there is nothing that gets parents on edge, ruffles their feathers, creates knots in their stomachs and ignites robust and passionate chats, quite like raising teenagers.

With the awareness of the above, there are some things that we need to shed light on. Liz Cowen calls it the “Golden rules for parents of teenagers”

  1. Your teenager is not out to get you
  2. Don’t take the specific behavioural changes personally. Your child is not like this because of something that you have or have not done.
  3. Don’t think that you are failing as a parent when you have challenges with them.
  4. Don’t think that your child does not love you anymore just because they treat you with the same respect as an unwelcomed guest.
  5. This phase does end. With your support, they will emerge on the other side successfully.

Our relationship should nurture a desire to seek understanding in times of trouble rather than blame and accusations. 

The next step after a deep understanding on our own feelings, opinions and thoughts about parenting is to get to understand our children better. The Parent Centre would like to invite readers to hop into the “tekkies” of our teenagers for a moment. They have to deal with physical, social, emotional, spiritual and changes in the brain. They have been born into a technological age where morality is constantly shifting, they need to discover who they are while facing personal, family, school and community challenges. All this amidst unpredictable schooling, separation from peers and living in a pandemic. With all that is going on, their instinct is to push parents away, but we are hoping that this article will encourage parents to preserve their relationship with their teenagers at all costs.

“A child needs your love the most when they deserve it least” Erma Bombeck

There are so many things that experts teach about raising teenagers, however if we were to only choose one, our most valuable tool is OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM.

Our relationship with them is what motivates our teenagers to do as we ask, because they trust it to be right. Our relationship should nurture a desire to seek understanding in times of trouble rather than blame and accusations. Our relationship will be the factor that will make them reach out to us when they are in trouble, even though they know that we would be mad.

However, relationship building means that we must be in awareness, and we must be able to recognise where our relationships are lacking, bruised, or broken. Good relationships take hard work, effort, and sincerity. It takes being open to make ourselves vulnerable, to apologise and to admit when we are wrong. It involves being kind and compassionate to ourselves first and then our teenagers. And of course, it takes skills. Fortunately, there is no shortage of support for parents. All we have to do is search for it. It takes courage to sign up for counselling or a parenting workshop. We know that it can be scary or anxiety filled, however, essentially it is a worthwhile investment if it is in pursuit of connecting with and closing the gap between us and our teenagers.

A parent in one of our recent Whatsapp Positive Parenting Skills Training commented that after learning about her role in her teenager’s life, she said “I need to give him space but also set limits to trust him. Be a good example to him, help him feel safe, he must be able to come to his parents for advice. I should be able to share my experience with them. My children need to know that they have my support”.

Are you willing to take responsibility for developing a re-connection and building a healthy relationship with your teenager?  Perhaps some of these relationship building tips are a good place to start:

  • Start when they are young. Begin re-building now whatever age they are.
  • Acknowledge them as a person and acknowledge all that they are facing developmentally, socially, physically, spiritually, cognitively, and hormonally.
  • Acknowledge their small little positive steps and moments of success.
  • Give them grace and space.
  • Give them Praise that is genuine, specific and that describes what you see and how you feel about their effort and improvement rather than the end result.
  • Show a true interest in them, look at them, touch them, show them how important they are to you.
  • When the relationship is bad, take the first step to repair it and don’t give up, you have to break down the walls built between you. You must earn their trust.
  • Even challenging children want their parents love, approval, acceptance, loyalty, and support.
  • Carve out time for your teen, create a space that is about them and not you. Start with 5 minutes a day.
  • Take care of yourself because if you are okay, they will be too.
  • Make them aware of your need to keep them safe and to have their respect and acceptance.
  • Search for creative ways to communicate.
  • Encourage, motivate, show gratitude too and forgive them.
  • Have boundaries, it keeps them safe and helps them to achieve their own discipline.
  • Choose your battles and overlook smaller things.
  • Get help if you are out of your depth, feel stuck or are overwhelmed.

 Lastly, strive for progress, not perfection, be gentle on yourself, you are doing the best you can with the knowledge you have!

 

*Kaashifa King is a Resource Developer & Counsellor at The Parent Centre based at 22 Wetton Road, Wynberg.
For assistance or more information visit them at www.theparentcentre.org.za or call +2721 762 0116.

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Jun 27, 2022
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