5 Secrets To Stay Connected With Your Teen

by GALTime Contributor, Parenting Pro Michele Borba, Ed. D.
Last year your daughter was so sweet, suddenly she has an "attitude."

Two months ago your son was your best bud, now he treats you like you're totally "uncool."

Welcome to the world of parenting a teen. Throw out any of those child-rearing manuals you've used in the past. For these ages you need a whole new perspective. Mark Twain offered one of most ingenious solutions: "Put them in a barrel," he said, then and nail it shut until they turn nineteen. Only then should you let them out."

Here are a few more realistic (and legal) tips I shared on the TODAY show that might help you save your sanity and stay connected with your teen. The trick is to find the one solution that works best for you and your teen and then keep on using it until it becomes the common bridge that helps you stay connected.

1. Know They're A Little Bit Crazy. If you think you suddenly have an alien in your midst, applaud yourself. You're right. Research shows that at no other time in your teen's life will his body be undergoing so many physical, cognitive and emotional changes. So alter your parenting to fit this new kid living in your house.

2. Get Educated! You've read all those baby books and mastered child development 101. Make sure you know about normal teen development as well. The more you understand typical adolescent behavior, the better you'll be at tailoring your parenting to this "new tenant" of yours. Invest in one great book about teens, attend those parenting workshops your school puts on, do a little more of an internet search on adolescent development.

3. Don't Overreact. You're not imagining that those mood swings: Your teen's quick-fire emotion switches show up on brain scans. Teens experience feelings more intensely and often overreact because they think we're upset or angry. So try these tips:

  • Count to three (at least) before you talk to a teen (and even then .. do so carefully!)
  • Stay calm. Take a lot of deep slow breaths.
  • Slow your pace and honor the silence.(Teens acutally need more processing time!)
  • Lower your voice, don't raise it.
  • Clarify emotions: "Are you thinking I'm mad because I'm not." (New research show that teens have trouble with emotional identification and may misinterpret our fatigue with anger. So let your child know how you really feel.)
  • Bite your tongue! Nothing turns a teen (or anyone else for that matter) off faster than judgmental comments and criticism.
  • Take a time out: "I need a moment to get it together."

4. Pick Your Battles Carefully. Teens will be more defiant and will take issue with things they don't consider fair. They will argue. In a few years they're going to be out on their own and their need to be "independent" or at least treated as an adult are paramount. Do think through what is not negotiable.You don't want to argue every little issue so select those issues you really do care about and will not buckle. Then let minor issues go. For instance: Obeying curfew is your major; cleaning her room is your minor. Hint: I personally would never negotiate anything that would jeopardize my teen's safety or our family values. But that's me. The secret is to identify your major-will never bend type-issues and rules. Then stay firm!

#5 How can you find common ground? Important steps for parents. Read more...
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