Dealing with a teenager can sometimes be extremely trying and nerve wracking. To parents it may seem like in just a few years their loving and receptive child has transformed into a haphazard young man or woman who rarely listens.
If you’re facing a similar predicament, these few insights could stand in good stead when trying to communicate and interact with your teenager.

1. The teenage years are a critical period of psycho-social development
Adolescence or the teenage years (13 to 19 years) is a critical period in a young person’s development. Children begin to feel the pressure of wanting to fit in with their peer group from as young as 7 years, however peer pressure gets worse during the teen years.
Teenagers are now more independent, and seek acceptance from their peers as opposed to seeking approval from their parents. Understanding this, and being empathetic to the social hierarchy will make interacting with your teen less combative.

2. Being able to voice their opinion is important for teenagers
The teenage years are when personality traits and characteristics become more dominant. It is during this time that testing and voicing opinions becomes an important part of development.
If your teen is constantly made to feel that his/her opinions and views do not matter or are considered silly and immature, they will soon withdraw and be less communicative and expressive.
Be respectful and attentive when your teen is voicing an opinion or view. Ask questions so that you understand their point of view even if it is contrary to your own. Do not dismiss their thoughts and views if you want to encourage healthy open communication.

3. The needs of esteem are heightened during the teenage years
Physically, socially and emotionally, your teen is going through myriad changes. Their bodies are changing, their voice and structure are changing, their social interactions and the way they view the world as well as their place in it is changing.
For most teens, this tends to be a time of low self-esteem, as they tend to be awkward both physically and socially. Understanding this and supporting them through these changes will help develop a bond of trust and respect between the parent and teenager.
Do not criticize their appearance or the clothes they wear, do not criticize their voice or their skin breakouts.
Encourage them to understand the changes that are occurring and teach them how to be resilient in the light of these changes. This can only be done if the parents are not critical, but supportive, unconditional and encouraging of their child.

4. Friends are important to a teenager
A teenager strives for acceptance from his or her peer group. This is a normal growing function in order for them to gain autonomy from the family circle and be seen as independent young adults.
However, this sometimes can be perceived as the reason why they are distant from their parents and families.
Having a good social support and peer group is required for healthy development; hence, you should encourage friends and social relationships.

  • Invite your teenager’s friends home so he/she feels you are accepting of his/her choice of friends. This will also allow you to socialize with the friends and get to know them and understand why your child would like to be friends with them.
  • If you are not happy with the influence a particular person has on your child, communicate your views but ultimately leave the decision to them. The knowledge and responsibility of facing the consequence of their choice should be left in their hands, while knowing that you are around to provide support if they need it.

5. Sometimes, they’re just trying to test your boundaries
Teenagers naturally tend to push boundaries as they are still finding their feet and are not quite sure what is permitted and how far their parents will bend.
Some methods that teenagers use to test their parents are talking back, haggling, dismissing, tantrums, emotional blackmailing and teasing.
Establish rules and boundaries beforehand, so decisions are not created in the heat of the moment.
Don’t lose your temper; your anger will only instigate a larger battle. Instead take a deep breath and respond patiently.

Treat the teen as you would an adult, talk to them like you would talk to an adult. Make them feel heard and respected and they will extend the same courtesy to you.

If you are the parent of a teenager that you are trying to understand or connect with, Nanihi Centre can be of assistance.
To know more about how we can help you, click here.