Sometimes, it’s challenging as parents to find the right answers, especially if this is the first time raising a teenage child. Yet, at times, we might think we already know because we have been through adolescence ourselves. We know what they’re going through. We know what they’re going to need from us.
Yet, having a preliminary understanding of adolescence isn’t always enough. Knowing what you went through as a teen might not be enough to understand what your unique child needs. For instance, perhaps your teenage needs weren’t always met. As a parent, it might be difficult to remember to fill that need for your child, especially if it remains to be a sore spot for you. The following are three points that might be useful to remember when raising your teen. Some of them might turn what you think you know on its head!
1. Teens want to be known by their parents.
When your child becomes 13 or 14 years old, it’s normal to see a change in behavior. He or she may not be as talkative, social, or helpful around the house. Your daughter or son might want to spend more time alone or with friends. You might see moodiness, isolation, and rebellion.
It is normal for a teen to pull away from their parents in an effort to find a sense of self and identity. However, that doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t continue to need you. Although they might appear as though they do not want you to butt into their lives, beneath that want to be able to share their fears and joys and aspirations. In fact, a good part of your teen is still a child, and he or she continues to rely on your parenting despite his or her tendency to pull away. More importantly, your teen still needs your presence and participation in their lives, despite their pulling away. The truth is, the main reason they don’t just open up to parents is that they might feel the need to protect themselves from analysis, judgment and lecture. Instead, teens want to be seen, known, and understood.
For parents, the challenge is doing this gracefully, almost so smoothly that a teen doesn’t really catch on that their parent is trying to create a better parent-teen relationship.
2. Teens perceive the world through emotionally charged lenses.
It’s the adolescent brain that tends to turn life into a range of emotionally filled experiences for them. The adolescent brain is undergoing incredible growth. Neurons are wiring and new connections are forming between the two hemispheres. Although these neural connections and adaptability are important in a teen’s learning, behavior, and mood regulation, impulsivity and emotionally charged decisions are common for teens. The part of the brain that controls impulsivity completes its growth between the ages of 23-26. And for this reason, teens tend to experiment with risky behavior, ride the wave of emotions and make rash decisions. In fact, the more parents understand the ebb and flow of their child’s energy, the better they will cope with their teen’s emotional life. Furthermore, rather than the typical trepidation with which some parents approach a teen’s emotional life, they can instead facilitate the explosion of creativity and life that the adolescent brain is experiencing.
3. Teens actually like school….for the right reasons.
Although as parents, we might think that in school teens are nourishing their intellectual abilities, they are also feeding their emotionally laden social lives. Along with this growth in the brain, a teen wants to be surrounded by connection with others. Too much isolation could lead to risky behavior, poor decision-making, and perhaps even mental illness, such as depression. Strong friendships and relationships with family can support healthy adolescent growth.
Sure, most teens will say that they hate school. They might express utter hatred towards a place they must attend every day. Yet, there are some aspects of the educational experience that could keep a teen engaged in school, such as making friends, beginning romantic partnerships, and developing social skills.
These secrets are meant to help parents look at adolescence differently. They are meant to create a deeper understanding of what a teen might be going through and support the parent-teen relationship.