Raising children comes with its fair share of challenges. Parenting teenagers, on the other hand, is a whole other ballgame. The daily struggles of maintaining a relationship with a teen can be enough to wear parents down, especially when every interaction results in conflict.
But being a teenager isn’t easy: from fluctuating hormones, to navigating social groups, to the increased pressures of securing post-secondary acceptance letters—teens have a hefty amount of balls in the air that require juggling at all times. Yet it can be easy to forget this fact once enough time has passed. This can be especially true for parents who are focused on getting through the trials and tribulations of raising teens.
For parents who are struggling to see eye to eye with their teenager, Karen Bondi, a mediator from our Parent-Teen Mediation program, has shared her top 4 tips to help parents and teens strengthen their relationship.
1. Focus on listening
If there’s one thing that all of us have in common, it’s our desire to be heard. While it can be easy, as a parent, to get caught up trying to impose parent-child roles so that your teen doesn’t begin to think they can boss you around, teens need to know that their opinions are valued and not swept under the rug.
It’s crucial to let your teen voice their thoughts and opinions to you without interruption. This creates a safe space for them to know that, regardless of your opinion on what they are saying, they are being heard.
2. Respect their individuality
One of the most common issues that come up in our Parent-Teen Mediation sessions is that of respecting individuality. While the common trope of teen outcry, “parents just don’t understand,” is often shoved aside as teen angst, both teenagers and parents can benefit immensely from tuning into each other’s individuality more often.
For example, we have helped many immigrant families learn to communicate better and accept one another when the teenagers become exposed to drastically different values than those the parents were raised with in their home country.
In these cases, we encourage parents to accept their teens for who they are rather than trying to push their own values upon them, which can lead to resentment.
3. Balance your needs
In any familial ecosystem, managing everybody’s needs can be quite the balancing act. We find that teens are far more receptive to working on their relationship with their parents when they are respected, given the benefit of the doubt, and not treated as a young child.
For instance, if your teen is out past curfew and knows that if she calls to tell you she is safe and will be spending the night at a friend’s house, you will thank her for staying in touch instead of becoming combative and demanding for her to come home, she will know that she’s trusted and treated her age—making her more likely to communicate her whereabouts in the future.
4. Stick out the hard times as a family
It’s important to remember that every family experiences their own peaks and valleys. Communicating thoughtfully as a family can, at times, feel entirely overwhelming. However, while our families are the ones who know how to push our buttons, they can also be our greatest support system.
Be cognizant of the fact that your teen’s brain is still developing, and that they won’t be a teen forever. If you’ve been feeling increasingly fed up with your teen’s behaviour, it’s imperative that you don’t give up on them altogether. Extreme measures like kicking them out of the house can cause a heavy load of damage that can take years to repair.
How FSGV’s Parent-Teen Mediation program helps
The primary mission of our Parent-Teen Mediation program is to reunite families and keep their bonds powerful and supportive. Our services begin with a mediator getting in touch with the family. After this, they will speak individually to all parties involved to get a sense of what everyone’s concerns are. Then, the mediator will meet with the family at whatever location is most convenient for them to begin the program.
Our program typically lasts about 10-12 sessions per family over the course of 3-4 months. We aim to address the unique needs of each family, providing individualized support to ensure nothing gets lost in translation between parents and their teenagers.
To gain access to our free and 100% confidential program, parents must get in contact with Ministry of Children and Family Development, who will then determine the appropriate service for them.