How to Cope With Teenagers

[Image - Patryk Sobczak]
Avatar photo
Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

My Family Care’s Emma Willars offers tips on tackling an age-old problem – how do you cope with teenagers?

Living with Teenagers – it’s a delight! Honest!

It’s true that teenagers are moody, impulsive, defiant and often rebellious. They are argumentative, almost always resistant to authority, and likely to be totally self-absorbed. However, what we hear less about is just how charming, creative, energising and dynamic they can be. 

No two teens are alike, and each one experiences their teenage years uniquely. The hormonal and physical changes common to all teenagers contribute to their growing sense of independence and desire for strong self-identity. However, parental and cultural influences have a significant impact and play a vital role in helping them navigate their formative years.

A key way to getting the most out of the teenager in your household is to get better at communicating with them. Learning and using the 3 golden rules for having better conversations is an excellent starting point.

‘I’ statements

We all know that when we get into an argument with someone, whether that’s your teenager or partner, we tend to use phrases like ‘you never help with this…’ or ‘you’ve let me down again…’

It can be much more beneficial to swap ‘you’ for ‘I’ in such statements, saying ‘I feel frustrated…’ or ‘I feel disappointed…’ instead. This encourages the other person to empathise with your emotional response, rather than making them the reason why you feel bad. 

This simple ‘re-framing’ of statements encourages conversation and can help avoid conflict. It also shows the other person how you actually feel and positions them as part of the solution, not to mention being less accusatory and more collaborative.

One of the characteristics of this stage in his/her growing maturity is a preoccupation with feelings. By framing your sentences differently you are appealing to emotions they can identify with.

Good enough

Striving for and being ‘the best’ in our competitive workplaces can become so much of a default setting that we find the same perfectionist drive motivating us in our home lives. Having unrealistic expectations of ourselves as parents and more importantly, expecting our teenagers to be perfect, can lead to conflict and frustrations.

Many people find it difficult to aim for ‘good enough’ but it’s impossible to achieve perfection in every aspect of our lives. When we make a mistake, it’s important to admit it. By doing so, we set an example to our teenagers of how to acknowledge errors and apologise.

Positive reinforcement – when we praise a child more often and criticise less, can also really help in your relationship with your teenager. It encourages them to do the right thing and builds important self-confidence.

Making time

A busy lifestyle filled with long working hours, numerous challenging responsibilities outside work, and very little spare time for yourself, has become the norm for people living in large cities today. But how do you manage to get through all the things on your to-do-list and still find time to spend with your family?

A good way to make family time count is to set aside a specific time – perhaps dinner or even breakfast together once a week – where the family enjoys time without television, screens, or other distractions. This provides a great opportunity for eye contact and communication. It is important to stay consistent when scheduling such activities so that they become routine, appreciated, and respected by all.

So, never mind the mood swings or rebellion, just spend time with your teenager. Give them the space they need to make mistakes and grow whilst staying available and supportive. Try to model positive and encouraging conversations whenever you can, and avoid unnecessary conflict. Allow for ‘good enough’ in your expectations of yourself and others – a sure way to achieve the best for everyone.

For more information on how to communicate more effectively at home you can listen to a webinar held by My Family Care.