This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Adolescence is often regarded with a groan and a sigh of discomfort. Even new parents frequently dread this period of time in their child’s development, concerned with the different challenges and potential pitfalls that may arise during adolescence. Fortunately, there are techniques parents can use to effectively work with their children during this time, rather than working against their children, in order to foster lasting connections and trust.
The Challenges of Adolescence
Adolescence is associated with a slew of challenges, not the least of which is puberty and the many hormonal changes experienced during this time. Social interactions tend to begin changing a great deal during adolescence, as do roles within friend groups and at school. Academics often get more challenging during this period of time, and there may be more expectations placed on children’s shoulders. Adolescents are often expected to do well in school, take on a job of some kind, engage with family and friends, develop hobbies, and begin building their future. All of this can coalesce to create a minefield of heightened emotions, frustration, resentment, and uncertainty, which can erode once-close parent-child relationships (learn more here).
The Challenges of Parenting
Parenting is a truly unique and substantial challenge. Being a parent requires discipline, patience, humility, and a never-ending dedication to learning and adapting. Parents often find themselves struggling to parent with patience and care, and may feel overwhelmed or overstretched. There are additional facets to consider when looking at parenting and the challenges it brings, such as financial situations, workplace situations, and even whether or not children have special needs. Adding all of these together, parents of even one child can quickly find themselves feeling overwhelmed and in over their heads.
Working With and Not Against Your Children
While most parenting experts and psychologists recommend an authoritative approach to parenting, rather than a drill sergeant or peer-to-peer approach, there is something to be said for treating the parent-child relationship as a partnership, of sorts. Children very often feel out of control in their lives, and want to exert some level of control in order to feel safe and heard. While you, as the parent, must be able to exercise the final say in most major decisions, especially when safety is involved, allowing your child to make their own decisions can help build confidence and foster a more relaxed and caring relationship.
Working with children often feels awkward or stilted at first, but after practicing the tenets described here regularly, you may find yourself more easily getting into the habit. To work with and not against your children, consider the following:
- Make decisions together. Whether it is the color of your child’s bedroom walls, or the number of piercings in your adolescent’s ears, be open to hearing what your child has to say and give it plenty of space to percolate.
- Offer controlled options. Parents of young children are often encouraged to offer a series of pre-selected options to help children feel as though they have some control over their lives. The same can also be true of adolescents. If your child wants to attend an event you do not feel comfortable having them attend, consider selecting 3-4 other events that you feel comfortable having them attend, and let them make the decision.
Develop rituals to build trust. Your children need to know that they are safe and heard with you. You can foster a robust sense of trust and safety by developing rituals with your child or children that they can rely upon. A common ritual is that of the “ask no questions” rule. In this ritual, children and parents work together to develop a word or a phrase that means “i want you to come get me right now, no questions asked.” Parents can also develop a practice of asking their children, “Do you want me to listen, or offer advice?” Doing these simple things can help foster a deeper sense of trust and safety and can help you and your child work together.