As a single mom, we often find ourselves in a slightly different position with our tweens and teenage children than two parent households have. No two children are the same, but there are a few solid principles that can help improve any parent/child relationship.
Whether your children are approaching the tween stage (9-14) or are right in the middle of their teenage years, it’s never too late to improve.
Here are two solid keys to improve teen and parent relationships.
What’s the one thing parents often complain about when it comes to their teen? If your guess was communication, you are right. Why does it seem that some parents are able to talk to their children about anything while other parents live in the frustration of having a closed mouthed child?
According to psychologists (and many interviews with teenagers) if you want your children to talk to you, you’re going to have to quit “freaking out.” Teens are very sensitive. They’re finding their way and trying to sort out the growing up process in their minds. They need your support, love, and encouragement. If you are suspicious or judgmental about the choices they make, your children are likely to share their fears, hopes, dreams, and questions with friends instead of parents.
The teenage years are some of the most difficult years of a person’s life. On one hand, the teen feels too old for childish things, yet is too young to have any real adult experiences in order to judge situations. Instead, they tend to rely on their morals, beliefs, and sometimes peer pressure to make decisions.
If these decisions turn out badly, they need somewhere to turn. That somewhere should be you. Whenever your child comes to you with stories or questions, be sure to take the time to listen and avoid the temptation to imply that your child may make the wrong choices.
Instead, ask questions and give them examples from your own past. Don’t be afraid to tell them about failures or decisions you made that you may not be proud of. They need to be able to come to you in any situation without fear.
Trust is the most important part of a parent / child relationship. Without trust, the communication will either never come, or it won’t stay for long. What do I mean by trust?
Here’s some examples of broken teenage / parent trust:
- Do you search your teen’s room, drawers, or try to break into his or her emails or social networks? Your child wants to know you believe in him or her. It’s not a good idea to nose around in their things, unless you feel they are in real danger (such as drug use or possibly hurting themselves or others).
- Do you repeat confidences? Maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal to blurt out to your best friend that your son thinks her daughter is pretty. But what isn’t a big deal to you may be a huge deal to your child. If you aren’t respectful of what is important or private to them, they simply won’t confide in you.
- Do you break your word? I remember a friend of mine who was severely traumatized by her mom. The entire time she was growing up, her mom always said, “I want you to know that you can tell me anything, –even if you get pregnant. I never want you to be afraid.” Well, you guessed it. When she turned 19, my friend became pregnant. When she told her mom, she was given an ultimatum to have an abortion (which she did not want) or to move out immediately. The relationship between that mom and daughter has never been restored. I’m sure restoration is possible, but it won’t be an easy road back to trust.
Open lines of communication and trust, the dynamic duo of any solid, healthy relationship. Improve these two elements with your tween or teenager and you’ll have a much more relaxed and stable relationship.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for improving teen and parent relationships? We’d love for you to share!