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How Is Your Relationship With Your Teen?

As parents, it can be tough to see your teenager become distant or angry with you.

It's not uncommon for teens to go through phases where they seem to hate their parents.

But why does this happen? Through my experience coaching teens and being a mom to three children, I've learned that there are common themes in what teenagers find annoying and frustrating about their parents.

Below, I've listed the most common complaints I've heard from teens about their parents and what you can do to help.

1. Frequently remind teens not to waste their potential. Telling teens that they aren't living up to their potential may seem like a good idea – after all, you want the best for your child. However, this approach can have an adverse effect.

Teenagers often feel like failures if they're on the receiving end of this type of comment. It can also lead them to believe that their parents' love is dependent on how successful they are. Instead of nagging or lecturing your teens, encourage them to reflect on their current situation. Help them to gain self-awareness without criticizing or reprimanding them. Ask them gently about what they plan to do to make progress. Don't forget to celebrate small wins along the way. You can also make positive comments to acknowledge your teens' effort when they work hard or implement good study habits, regardless of the outcome.

2. Parents overreact to small mistakes. We all make mistakes – it's a part of how we learn and grow. However, the way you respond to your teens' mistakes can cause problems.

For example, your teenager might have lost track of time while hanging out with friends. They're now late in getting home, and you're annoyed. It's important to take a step back and respond rather than react. First, ask your teen why they're late. Once you understand the situation better, you can then discuss strategies with them to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. Help them learn problem solving skills. The key is to not overreact. If you frequently overreact, it will create emotional distance between you and your teen.

3. Parents overemphasize academic achievement. Academics are important, but are they the only aspect of your teens' life worth discussing?

Rather than only asking your teens questions related to school, focus on building a connection with them. Try starting conversations by talking about things that your teens are interested in.

Find out more about what they like and dislike, and about what their perspective is on various issues. Once you build a strong, trusting connection, teens will love to share their opinions, and in my experience, it is usually just as you are ready to go to bed! Give them time when they are ready to talk, before you know it, they are adults living their own life and you will wish you could get this time back.

The deeper the connection you have with your teens, the more likely it is that you'll be able to influence them when it counts.

4. Parents continually criticize and nag their teens. When raising teenagers, there will be opportunities for you to provide constructive criticism. However, nobody enjoys receiving constant criticism.

If you continually criticize your teens, it will hurt their self-esteem. Your teens might even become convinced that it's impossible to live up to your expectations.

Try replacing negative comments with acknowledgments of your teens' progress. Make a positive comment whenever you observe your teens trying hard or behaving responsibly. This is a fantastic way to motivate your teenagers and show them that you're their biggest supporter.

5. Teens often feel disrespected by their parents. Nobody likes to be talked down to or treated disrespectfully. Even though you have more knowledge and experience than your teenagers, avoid being condescending.

Think back to when you were a teenager. You probably thought you knew better than your parents, so don't be surprised if your teens think they know better than you. So treat your teens with respect. If you don't, it'll be hard for you to expect the same kind of treatment from them.

6. Teens feel pressured to pursue their parent's dreams.

It can be tempting to view your teens as younger versions of yourself, but you need to respect their individuality and support them as they work toward goals they find meaningful.

You might work hard to offer opportunities for your teens to do things you couldn’t do when you were younger. Is it possible they feel like you are pushing them towards a career path or extracurricular interest?

It's important to acknowledge that your teenagers have their own unique personalities and passions. As a parent, you should honor their individuality and encourage them to pursue their own meaningful objectives.

7. Do you downplay your teen's feelings? It's important not to dismiss or invalidate your teen's feelings, as this can minimize issues that are important to them.

Remember that acknowledging your teen's emotions doesn't imply that you approve of their actions or beliefs. It just means that you are actively listening to their perspective, empathizing with their situation, and showing them that you value their feelings and your connection with them.

It is crucial to validate your teenager's emotions as it provides them with a sense of support and reinforces their belief that they can confide in you regarding their problems and worries.

For instance, if your teenager expresses distress over not being selected for the soccer team, it is essential to acknowledge their emotions and offer support rather than dismissing their feelings with advice such as practicing harder for next year. Instead, phrases like "I can imagine how tough it must be to not make the team after putting in so much effort. It's understandable to feel upset" can validate their feelings.

By validating your teenager's emotions, you help them feel less isolated when dealing with life's challenges, and you offer them a trusted source to work through their emotions, which can be beneficial in future predicaments. Validation is a critical skill that is often encouraged and practiced during many therapy sessions, especially in DBT.

8. Parents often overlook the things that matter to their teenagers.

What sort of things really matter to you teens? Along the lines of validation mentioned above, we must try not to be dismissive of things that are important to your teens, even if you think they might be a waste of their time.

9. Do you apologize when you are wrong?

It can be tough to admit when you're wrong, but apologizing takes courage and models responsible behavior for your teenagers. It can inspire them to do the same when faced with a similar situation.

10. Teens often say that their parents don't include them in the decision-making process.

As teens get older, they'll start to test existing boundaries. It only makes sense to include your teens in setting expectations and boundaries. Working together to establish healthy boundaries is beneficial to both parents and teens. After all, we want our children to become confident decision makers as young adults. This is actually a skill and needs to be taught.

Let's face it, maintaining a healthy relationship with your teenager is essential for their emotional and mental well-being. By identifying which reasons ring true for you and your teen, you can take steps to mend the relationship and strengthen it too. With time and effort, you can bring out the best in your teen and build a positive relationship.

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