Tuesday, November 13, 2012

3 Steps To Parent-Proofing Your Relationship With Your Teen

 Empathize and strategize, Don't criticize

Rather than criticizing your teen for spending too much time on texting and facebooking friends, as in: "If you didn't spend so much time texting your friends, you would get your homework done and be more prepared for your tests!" Instead use an "I get it" statement: " I get how important it is for you to stay in touch with your friends, lets figure out a way that you can do that and get your homework done." Your teen will not feel judged, but understood. Staying in touch with friends at night is important to them as is homework. Minimizing something that is important to them, just serves to drive a wedge of "you just don't understand!" Now you can get down to problem-solving rather than wasting time arguing about what is important to your teen!

2. Jump into your teen's life:

 Up until the point that your child becomes a teen you have been the conductor of your child's life, exposing them to and engaging them in activities that YOU want them to experience. As teens, they are now at the "buffet of life" trying out and on different persona's, interests, friends etc. Many of these things will feel shallow, wastes of time, and/or completely different from your own interests and passions. If you keep trying to make your teen want to do the things you want them to do, you will push them away. 

Example: You and your family are an athletic family. You expect everyone to participate, family outings, hikes, skiing, etc. Your teen went along with this as a younger child, but as a teen is voicing his/her strong objection. He/she just doesn't like this stuff. One client I worked with had a daughter who loved to bake and was an obsessive watcher of the TV show cupcake wars. Once the parents understood that their daughter had her own passions, they made her the family "baker,"a role she loved and felt respected for. It changed the whole dynamic between her and her parents. 

Maybe your teen loves watching some TV show you find revolting and disgusting. Teens often watch these shows, not because they emulate these people, but because they don't! When you swallow your pride, and sit down with your teen and watch their favorite show with them, you accomplish two things. First you stop making them feel less than, by joining in on the fun. Secondly you get an opportunity during commercials to understand what turns your teen on about these people. It is a great way to find out what your teen thinks about things without asking directly. Do not be judgemental or" lectury", as in "I don't understand why you watch such crap!" Instead you can talk about the characters as if they are real people:" Oh my god, do you believe what she just said!!!" React in real time as if these people were your friends. When your teen feels you aren't pretending interest and are just hanging with them doing something that interests them, you show them respect. 

3. Stop Yelling!!! 

A teen's brain is wired differently than the adult brain. The amygdala, or the emotional center of the brain is in much higher activation in teens than the thinking center or frontal cortex. When you raise your voice, your teen reacts automatically to the sound of your voice and not to what you are saying. The old adage: "it's not what you say, but how you say it" should be your guide. If you want your child to listen to you, stop yelling!

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