Understanding your teenager’s emotional make-up
Parents often ask me how they can learn to “manage” their teenager better. It can be hard to know how to respond when teenagers seem to be over-sensitive or over-emotional.
What we as parents often forget is that our teenagers are experiencing a barrage of heightened emotions. Teenagers face a constant balancing act between wanting to be grown up and independent, and at the same time still needing a parent’s support. We need to help them to learn to manage those internal battles.
Our teenagers brains are still in construction and won’t be fully matured until they are in their mid twenties. We might notice that at times their thinking and behaviour can be quite mature, but at other times they seem to behave in ways that seem illogical, impulsive and very emotional.
Feeling more equipped with this knowledge about our children can help them through those tumultuous times. Here are five tips on how to set the scene for a closer relationship with your teenager:
- Healthy Boundary Setting
Be willing to lay down some boundaries and to negotiate them as well. A teenager who feels valued and heard by their parents is more likely to cooperate.
- Time Not Money
In my experience, most teenagers value quality time with their parents. This means putting down our devices (yes, parents are guilty of this as well) and offering them our full attention. Opportunities for conversations could be during mealtime, in the car on the way to school or sport, or over a milkshake at a café. It is during those times that we learn the most about what is going on in their lives. As a result we will feel much more connected to each other.
- Listen More, Talk less
We’ve all done it! We get so eager to give advice and tell them how to do it better. We’ve all been in their situation, right? So, we should know. But why not allow them to make their own mistakes? It’s by taking calculated and healthy risks that teenagers are able to give their brains an opportunity to develop an independent identity and to explore adult behaviour. A lesson learnt by our own experience is much more likely to stick.
- Be a Positive Role Model
Try to remember the importance of modelling the type of behaviour you would like to see in your teenager. And if we make mistakes (we will, because we are human) we should be ready to apologise and acknowledge that none of us are perfect. This will teach our children to take responsibility for their actions.
- Offer Frequent Praise
Not only will positive reinforcement help cement ways of being that are more desirable, it will also help to strengthen pathways in your child’s brain. And to be honest – who doesn’t enjoy hearing that they’ve done well and are on the right track?
Staying connected and involved in your teenager’s life can help you to learn more about how your child is coping with stress. It can also help you keep an open relationship with him or her and ensure that they see you as someone to talk to – even about embarrassing or uncomfortable topics.
Every teenage child is unique, and teenagers respond to stress in different and unique ways. You know your child best, so it’s OK to trust your instinct on how to support your child if he or she is going through a stressful time. It’s also OK to ask for help from friends, family members or professionals like your local psychologist.
Petra Phipps is a Psychotherapist at Open Sky Psychology. For an appointment with Petra or one of our other practitioners, visit the Our Team page or call 1300 296 641.