Changes in puberty is just the beginning of stress faced by teens. Unfortunately, in today’s society there is a whole host of challenges and pressures that teenagers face. Finding their place in life, identifying who they are and where they fit in can place a lot of pressure on a teen. Depending on their relationship and support from parents and loved ones plays a key role in how a teen will handle this challenge. A strong support system with good morals and values, and even a solid spiritual background can help to facilitate this stage in a positive direction.
There is such a fine line with over-parenting and under-parenting, and maintaining a healthy balance with setting boundaries, deciding on when discipline is appropriate, and how much engagement you will have as a parent in your teenagers life. I think the best advice to ensure open communication with your child is to be ‘healthily’ engaged in their life – attend their schools events, encourage school and sport involvement, know their friends and who they are hanging around, discuss with them the dangers related to alcohol and drugs, understand they are teenagers and must learn from poor decisions and mistakes -and discuss this with them. Most importantly, be sure to set time aside each week for bonding. Having a family dinner several nights a week is a great way to communicate with your children and allows time to talk about many things. However, this time should focus on positive things. If anything negative needs to be discussed, it should not be done at the meal table. Lastly, planning a mandatory family night a couple times a month is something that many families no longer do. This is so vitally important to the wellbeing of your child and/or teen. Allow them to bring a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend – but the key is you are spending family time together. A few suggestions might be something like bowling for a couple hours on a Sunday or planning a movie night, taking an impromptu weekend excursion, or perhaps it’s something as simple as staying at home and playing a game or having an outdoor bar-be-que.
Most importantly, assisting your son or daughter to recognize they are their own unique person, and if someone doesn’t like them for who ‘they’ are, then it’s ok. They must learn to be comfortable with who ‘they’ are and learn to love thyself. This will help to facilitate a stronger ability to say ‘no’ when faced with dangerous temptations, as well as empower them to be who ‘they’ are and not worry so much about fitting in with others.
Your teen needs someone they can talk to, and they want to feel unjudged. If they fear their parents, they will not open up. If the stage has not been set up for inviting dialogue, then they will likely not feel comfortable talking to their parent(s) about difficult subjects. So, if they are left with no one they feel they can talk to, then they end up having to deal with issues on their own. Their brains are not fully developed at this point. So when they must deal with multiple teen pressures on their own, many often end up doing so in ways that are not healthy for them. Many will choose to drink or use substances as a way to cope with internal conflict or pain, while others may end up suffering from episodes of depression or anxiety.
You have the power to help your children live mentally healthy lives. Stay engaged and communicate openly. And, most importantly, be sure to spend quality time together and let your teenage son or daughter know that you are there for them when they need guidance or help with a stressful teenage situation.