Tip: Focus on your parent teen relationship and less on the teen.
What does that mean? If you develop a good parent teen relationship (not perfect) but a good relationship with your teen then there’s a high chance they will use that as a template for all their relationships going forward. In other words, if you have a healthy parent teen relationship, they’ll end up having healthy relationships. It’s easy, in theory, just not so easy in practice.
What do I mean by focusing on your parent teen relationship?
One: Acting out behavior.
I think we all know that acting out behavior is damaging to your relationships. So when your teen does acting out behavior, the key for you is going to put words to your emotions so they can learn how to do that. Instead of shouting at them for the acting out behavior, and making it into a big argument, say, “Excuse me for a second but it sounds like you’re angry about something if you can tell me what you’re angry about without shouting, I might be able to help you.” Kindly and calmly put the words to it.
Same with you, relationships are two-way. If you act out at some point, it’s going to be imperative that you go back to your teen and use the words. We all make mistakes. Go back and say, “Hey, I’m sorry that I yelled at you, what I wanted to say and wish I said is I’m angry that you continue to leave a mess in the kitchen.”
Talk through your emotions.
Two: Autonomy. You have to respect each other’s autonomy.
We can all agree that in a healthy relationship, we respect each other’s autonomy. What does that mean? That means when your child makes a decision, instead of undermining it or taking over, you want to let them have it! There are only two exceptions at this stage: Loss of life or limb, or legal problems. Anything else you let them make the decision, you let them fail at it or succeed, but you let it be theirs. That’s autonomy.
You also have to be autonomous, if you’re the parent who does whatever your child wants, whenever they want, think again. You’re just teaching them how to be someone’s puppet. You have to be honest with your child. “I’m so sorry; I can’t take you to the mall. I have a lunch set up with a dear friend that I don’t want to miss.” You’re showing your autonomy, respecting your child’s autonomy is helping the relationship.
Three: Empathy. Empathy is a huge part of relationships.
You can help your teenager continue this or develop this by respecting their feelings. I can’t tell you how many parents come in here and think their child shouldn’t be angry, or shouldn’t be sad. It’s ridiculous that he’s sad about missing homework, or he’s not sad about a bad grade. If your child has a certain feeling, there’s nothing worse than taking that over or undermining it. Let them have their feelings.
Same with you, you have to be comfortable with your feelings, ideally, through expressing them. A lot of parents say they don’t want to show their sadness around my child. That’s ridiculous; you want to show your sadness around your child. You want them to understand that sadness is normal, as are all emotions.
The key is going to be not to put it on them, and you’ll want to let them know that you will be okay, that you’re sad about (fill in the blank), and this is grief, and you’ll be better in a while.
These three things will help you to keep your parent teen relationship strong, which will help them have strong relationships outside the family.
If you have any questions or problems with this, give us a call or send us a text at (757)340-8800.
For more on this topic, go to www.drldabney.com.