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7 Steps to parenting a teen with grace & intentionality

Posted by on Oct 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

benefits of Teen therapy in portland oregonParenting a teen is a clunky endeavor.

Suddenly, your child is out in the world. They are fully exposed to all things dangerous, precarious, addictive and complicated.  To make matters worse, parents often find that as their child enters adolescence, their teen starts to pull away from them.  The tether between parent and teen is much more lengthy than it previously was.  For parents this can be anxiety inducing at best and terrifying at it’s worst.

1. Give your child the gift of adolescence

Let your teen despise you, challenge you, be different from you. Let them try on many different styles, attitudes, emotions, and personas.  Do not shame them or embarrass them for this.  This is their work.  Just as a young child learns about the world through play, experimentation is the work of a teen. For many parents, this means enduring lots of messy interactions, constantly reinforcing boundaries, and stressful fights.

2. Grieve the loss of your sweet child

Parents often grapple with the changes in their relationship with their child.  The change is valid and true.  Let it be present for you and get support from others in your life about the challenges your are facing.  You might find yourself missing the sweetness and the openness of your child before they entered adolescents.  It’s important to let yourself grief this change.

3. Keep your teen safe

Remind yourself daily that your teen is a bull in a china shop.  They are not (typically) intending to destroy themselves and all that is around them.  However, to be a teen is to be faced with new freedoms, challenges and opportunities – all without the brain functioning to understand the long-term consequences of their behavior.  It can be helpful to tell your teen directly that you will give them a long tether and as much room as possible but when it comes to safety you will pull them in quickly and fiercely.  This is not because they have done it incorrectly, but because their safety is the most important thing to you.

4. Don’t make it about you

When you teen does things that makes them look sneaky, deceitful, mean-spirited and selfish, remind them of your family values and educate them about the importance of integrity, kindness and trust.  It can be infuriating to parent a teen.  Try to focus on the long term education and skill building of your teen.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t be angry.  By all means, be angry.

Just remember that they are not doing this TO you.

They are doing this because it’s developmentally appropriate and they need to do this in order to launch into the world with a strong sense of who they are and where they come from.  If you just flip out on them, then they will only learn about conflict and anger.  If you educate them about your family values and help support them in their decision making process, they will have more resource and skills when they launch from your home and care.

5. Watch for anxiety and depression in your teen

Because there’s so much physiological, developmental and physical change during adolescence, anxiety and depression are very common.  Watch for significant changes in your teen: such as with their sleep, eating habits, weight, exercise or attention.  Also noteworthy is a decreased interest in things they used to enjoy, such as sports or hanging with friends.  It can be tricky to differentiate between moodiness/typical changes and depression/anxiety.  If you suspect your child has depression or anxiety, seek therapeutic help.  While many teens experience mental healthy challenges, do not assume it is normal.  When anxiety and/or depression map into one’s brain during adolescence, it can be more challenging to address the longer it goes untreated.

6. Launch them

Remember that this won’t last forever and that you are working toward a launch.  However that launch looks, be it college, technical school, moving out, or something else, it needs to happen for them and for you.  Grieve it, accept it, celebrate it and let it be what it is.

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