Raising teenagers is one of the most challenging periods of life as a parent.
Teenagers tend to come in three types: those that cause parents much less worry, change slowly and have less involvement with their peers; those that pull away somewhat and cause some worry; and those that cause serious concern, pull away from you a lot, act out, engage in dangerous behaviour and have significant emotional issues.
It is useful to understand where your teenager fits amongst these categories and what you can do to help.
Should I Intervene?
Deciding whether to intervene (picking your battles) due to your teenager’s challenging behaviour can be a tough decision. It is helpful to categorise problems into two areas:
- Minor but Annoying: eg long conversations with friends; a bedroom that looks like a bomb went off; issues with their appearance.
- Serious: eg drugs, alcohol, anxiety, depression, self-harm, abuse, ADHD, family issues like divorce etc.
Importance of Self-Reflection as a Parent
It is important to self-reflect in order to understand whether there are things going on in your own life that are contributing to issues with your relationship with your teenager. Some useful questions to ask yourself:
- Are there things going on in my life that have increased my level of frustration?
- Am I taking my frustrations out on my teenager?
- Am I looking for reasons to get mad?
- Am I part of the problem?
- Do I bury my head in the sand and pretend the problem will go away?
As a parent, there are a number of things you can do, such as:
- Positive reinforcement and praise;
- Take the pressure off your teenager by talking about yourself, rather than bombarding them with questions (teenagers often perceive the questions as an interrogation);
- Practice active listening with your teenager, and empathy;
- Even though life can get busy, it’s a good idea to schedule in some fun activities/holidays etc.
At the same time, parents should avoid:
- Arguing – it doesn’t resolve anything and it often makes the situation worse. Try taking some time out when you are angry, to calm yourself down and then going back and addressing the issue once you are calmer;
- Nagging/Lecturing – as parents we think “If I just ask them one more time they will listen”. Teenagers at this point have often switched off from listening, your frustration level grows, you end up arguing with each other and going to separate ends of the house;
- Spontaneity – teenagers don’t often respond well to issues being brought up with them on the spot – this is where a family meeting may come in handy.
What Role Should I take as a Parent?
- The Observer Role – where we assess whether intervention is necessary;
- The Advisor Role – perhaps it is time to give some advice to your teenager and learning how to give advice can be useful (eg being aware of your body language and tone of voice etc);
- The Negotiator Role – sitting down with your teenager to discuss the issues and coming up with a solution together can be effective; and,
- The Director Role – if the issues are persisting and the teenager is not handling them well (or at all), it is time to step in and take the lead with regards to intervention/s.
When to seek Professional Help
As mentioned above, if your teenager’s behaviour is considered serious and is impacting their functioning (ie drugs, alcohol, bullying, depression, anxiety etc) it is time to seek professional advice and treatment.
Clinical Psychologists can help you to implement the parenting strategies outlined above, in more depth and specific to yourself and your teenager; and also work directly with your teen to understand what is going on for them and the triggers/causes to the problem, to learn how to manage their symptoms and to rebuild their relationships (ie with parents, siblings etc). If you would like assistance in this area, please don’t hesitate to contact me to arrange an appointment.
Leia’s primary focus is clinical child and adolescent psychology although she can treat individuals and couples of all ages. She has training and experience in a variety of evidence based treatment approaches.
To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Leia Redman try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- Phelan, T. W. (1998). Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go Of Your 13-18 Year Olds. 2nd Illinois: Parent Magic inc.