Just when you thought you have grasped the meaning of being a parent, the child enters adolescence. Again, from the beginning everything seems to be so difficult, you don’t know what is right/wrong, there is always shouting and talking, and anxiety about whether they will ever get over it. For the next 6 years or so unfortunately, they will have to be patient. It may sound unbelievable, but teenagers want their parents to be their friends too.
What they really ask of their parents is to listen to their thoughts, joys, fears, dilemmas. Very quickly parents will tell them what to do and how, (out of love of course), instead of respecting their own way or thought process in making a decision. When the teenager feels heard, then a suggestion or opinion will be more easily accepted.
Listening is an art that needs practice. It might help if you saw a little of their side:
• The need for independence.
As they grow older they must separate from their parents and learn to function, thrive and compete with others of their kind. They want to be independent, to make their own decisions, to be in control of their lives. That is why they often do the opposite of what they are told.
• Communication problems.
Lies: usually occur when a teenager feels that their opinion will not be heard, but neither will it be respected. This hurts their relationship, and he hides them or no longer asks for permission. It’s not the easiest thing to have honest conversations with your child. How much honesty can you tolerate? You may not be ready to hear about his nights out, relationships, etc. How honest the teenager is depends on how openly the parents communicate with him.
• They test the limits
This usually happens for a number of reasons. Not only to expand their independence, gain new experiences, but also to test their relationship with their parents. As if asking ‘Do you see me? Am I important enough to you to watch what I do? What are the consequences if I break this rule?’ They want to know about their parents, about their relationship, and if they know what the limits of their freedom are, they feel safer.
What can I do;
• Treat them with respect. Hear what they have to say. Don’t underestimate them, and avoid phrases like: “You’re still young and don’t understand”.
• Don’t be absolute but willing to adjust a rule if needed. Negotiate.
• Affirm your love at every opportunity. That this is the reason for your actions, decisions, not the need to be in control.
• Give them responsibilities.
• Ask the right questions without seeming like you’re interrogating. To feel that they can come to you and not be afraid.
• Talk to them as if they were adults, but remember that they are still children. It helps them feel like you’re making an effort to understand and that you make time for them.
At Counselling Kenya, we create a non-judgemental, collaborative partnership with your teen so they can freely explore their challenges and emerging identities. Help your teen thrive by reaching out to a counsellor today! Call 0741123944