Being involved in the life of your teenager is a very different experience from actively parenting and protecting a toddler. When they were younger, it was far easier to understand what was on their minds, who their friends were and how they were getting on at school. Whenever they had a tantrum or got upset you were already significantly involved in their life and this made it far easier to help them overcome their troubles.
The sudden teenage change
Once puberty starts to take over, education and school life get bigger and more unwieldy. You don’t get to meet all their friends and influences, rarely feel like you know what they are thinking about, fearing, loving or having trouble with.
It’s very natural for a teenager to start to pull away from the family circle, to focus on relationships away from the home and to make you, the parent, feel disconnected and as though you are somehow doing something wrong. You’re not doing anything wrong at all; it’s a difficult and sometimes quite lonely experience trying to figure out how to best support a teenager when it often seems like the last thing they want is help from their parents.
How can you support them?
The good news is that, not only are you not getting it wrong, but there are also some key strategies you can employ to help your troubled teen deal with the trickier parts of life that are starting to test them. There is a lot to love about living with a teenager and with a slightly different approach (and let’s face it, we don’t get taught this, it’s a lot of trial and error for us all), you can
really appreciate the opportunity to watch them grow up into a young adult, feed off their energy, welcome being challenged by their thoughts and ideas and be involved with their lives in a changing but positive way.
If you suspect substance abuse (drugs or alcohol), then it’s important to seek outside help and advice. There are plenty of services available, starting with your local doctor through to professional counseling services such as those from igniteteentreatment.com.
Communication is key
Put communication first. If you have open lines of communication with your teen, then you can really help and support them by being their confidant (earn their trust, if you say they can speak to you in confidence, mean it), and make sure you listen. If they are having a tough time then knowing you will hear, understand and not judge them are really important to your teen and they’ll appreciate that.
The opposite approach can have negative effects, so be mindful not to give them a hard time, set punishing boundaries and chastise them too negatively otherwise they’ll shut up shop and your window of opportunity to support them emotionally will close.
Strong emotional support is the best thing you can offer your troubled teen. It’s tough getting the balance right between privacy, effective help and support and too much invasiveness that can make them hide from you emotionally, but with lots of supportive love, communication and a calm, understanding approach you’ll be able to nurture them through life’s tough times whilst helping them develop the tools to take with them into the world as they develop into young adults.