The keys to parenting teenagers
The keys to parenting teenagers - perhaps the most difficult time in our lives as parents - are to listen, respect their views, and give emotional love and security.
Try and remember how it was for you in your teens - it may have been very difficult and you want to make it easier for them, you want to offer them whatever it was that you lacked. Remember how it felt to be 13, 14, 15 - how much independence you wanted but how you also felt isolated at times maybe? How painful it was to feel like the "only one" who had your particular difficulty. No matter how small their problems may seem to you now, bear in mind that to a young person their problems may feel overwhelming, and time runs much more slowly at 14 than it does at 40.
Start young - listen to them from babyhood and don't ever stop. Let them know above all that they are loved, respected and valued for who they are, no matter what.
Don't try to give them too much advice; wait until they ask for it, and if they do, try to weigh up what's the thinking or worry behind their question and ask them about that before you offer them solutions. Often it's not a solution they want from you, just someone to reassure them that they are going to be ok, and that you're always there for them.
One of the hardest things about adolescence is the continually changing state of your body, and the sense of feeling different from everyone else. We all find change hard to cope with; how much harder when each day you can sense that your friends are changing too, and how do you keep up with them?
Tap into your own feelings, keep the dialogue going, with a balance of listening and speaking. And don't forget that even if they don't seem to want a cuddle, physical contact at the right time and in the right way is often the most reassuring thing we can give anyone.
No matter how angry you might be with your child, remember that he or she needs you to be constant, supportive and loving at all times, so bite back the angry comment, remember that you love them no matter what and build yourself some free time when they're not around to relax and remind yourself that maybe you're not perfect, but you've just done the best you could for now, and that's all anyone can manage.
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About Laura Cope
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