By Rachel Lucas Thompson
The parent-child relationship undergoes many changes throughout our lives. From infants to adults, each stage is different and requires time to figure out. When interacting with the teenagers in your life, try to remember the following.
- Show interest in what they are interested in. Teens are working to figure out who they are separate from you. Expressing interest in their activities, thoughts, and dreams supports their development and helps maintain a connection.
- Try to eat one meal together a day as often as possible. Or if not a meal, sit down together. Families who eat together are more likely to talk about what is going on in their lives. This makes you more likely to know what your teen is interested in and who their friends are. This kind of involvement by parents is associated with reduced risky behavior from teens.
- Be available. Teens are trying out independence. This can sometimes mean acting like they don’t want their parents around. It doesn’t mean they don’t actually need their parents. Invite your teen to do something with you. Even better, ask if you can do something with them that they enjoy – like play a video game together or go to the skate park.
- Don’t take your teen’s attitude personally. Remember the adolescent brain isn’t the same as the adult brain. The reactive part of their brain matures more quickly than the planning/thoughtful part does. This can mean strong reactions and hot tempers. Don’t get drawn into a conflict. Take a deep breath and give them an opportunity to do the same. It’s okay to take a break from a conversation and come back to it later when tempers have cooled.
- Practice the art of the mindful pause. Mindful awareness of the present moment can help both you and your teen feel less stressed. It can also help you navigate the difficult thoughts and feelings that might arise as you navigate new family roles and changing identities. Making a habit of checking in with a mindful breath, or taking a moment to notice what you are thinking or feeling, can foster a supportive family environment for everyone.
Rachel Lucas Thompson is an associate professor in the CSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies and director of the Family Relationships and Development Laboratory.