Supporting Your Teenager: A Christian Counselor’s Advice, Part 1
A Time of Transition
In our culture, we often label teens as moody and difficult. Parents may wonder what happened to their child, who seems to have been replaced by a completely different person. In the midst of day to day life, one can easily lose sight of the reality that your child’s adolescence is a time of transition for both you and them. Things will not go back to the way they once were and they don’t need to. Rather, you need to find a way to enjoy the present with both the good and the bad. Your teen wants to be independent and it is your task to help them become independent.
In this two-part series I want to look at some of the ways that you can support your teenager during this time of transition.
Recognize that Teens are Also Confused
This is a confusing time for both you and your teen and you need to recognize and accept that. You may be wondering what happened to the loveable, cuddly elementary school student who wanted to come home, give you a hug and tell you all about their day. Your teenager is as clueless as you are as to what will happen next. They are trying to make it through the day-to-day grind just like you are. This transition can forge a deeper bond between you. You don’t have to mourn the loss of the relationship you had with your child when they were younger. Instead, look at how you can create a different relationship with your teenager. Your teen is growing up and is becoming their own person.
Develop Common Interests
If your teenager shares something with you about a band they like, or an author they enjoy reading, ask them about it. Listen to their music and show an interest in reading their books. These can provide easy points of connection that enable your teenager to share things with you. While alternative music or young adult post-apocalyptic novels may not really be your scene, this is a great way to show your teenager that you are reaching out to them and want to connect with them. Part of an adolescent’s development is figuring out who they are. By making an effort to join them in something that interests them, you are effectively telling them that you see them as they are and appreciate them. This also encourages the adolescent’s independent interests and provides a point of connection for both of you. Both of these are important for your relationship.
Empathize With Their Emotions
Sometimes as adults we do not take teenagers’ emotions seriously. Instead, we want to question them and tell them how hard adult life is going to be. But we should not compare teenage drama to adult problems, for as adults we have learned how to manage stress and have less intense emotions. While adolescent problems may seem trivial in comparison to adult problems, they are hard for teenagers to handle given their limited resources. In addition, teenagers are probably getting less sleep and are juggling activities, school, and friends as they try to figure out who they are. It’s also important to remember how vital peer relationships are to teenagers and how anything related to their friends is a big deal. Your own experiences as a teenager may feel far away, but this doesn’t need to be a problem. In fact, you can use this as an opportunity to ask your teenager to tell you about their experiences in order to help you understand them. Although it may be difficult, you need to keep adolescent problems in perspective and refrain from comparing them with adult problems.
Be There For Them
Teenagers are on their own time schedule. They will often give one-word answers when you ask them a question. Then suddenly, when you are in the middle of something, they may be ready to talk. As far as it is possible, try to put aside what you are doing if your teen reaches out to you. This shows them that you care, that you find what they have to say important and that you want to be available to them. Your teenager knows that you care about them, but it speaks volumes when you are able to meet them on their time schedule. It may not be convenient for you, but it will be worth it. If they catch you at a moment when you are in the middle of something that you simply cannot interrupt, give them a time frame that lets them know when you will be available. It’s also easy for all of us to get caught up on our phones and to be constantly checking our email. Sometimes we need to put the phone down in order to show that we are fully present. The best way for someone to know that you are listening to them is to make eye contact and actively listen. You may need to encourage both yourself and your adolescent to put your phones aside so that you can focus on conversation with one another.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Support Your Teenager
As a parent you want the best for your child. This article has suggested ways in which you can support your teenager, and I will outline more of these in the next article. However, you may also feel the need for more personal support as you negotiate these difficult years. Christian counseling can provide a valuable support during the stresses and strains of these years, and a Christian counselor give you tools that enable you to help your teenager during this crucial time of transition.
“Teenagers Playing Tug Of War” by Ambro on freedigitalphotos.net; “Happy Family Of Four In Restaurant” by stockimages on freedigitalphotos.net