The teen years are all about identity. Parents of teens see their young sweethearts turn into self-absorbed, rebellious adult-like things who avoid their families to play with friends at almost any cost. Yet during this age, parents have an extremely important role to play: Allowing their teens to develop their emotional intelligence, the ability to identify and control their emotions.
The teen years are a time of exploration. Many parents make the mistake of putting pressure on their teens to “become their old selves.” As part of growing up, teenagers must conform to the world of their peers and cannot always apply the rules that were learned in the family to all of life’s situations. By letting go, you do both yourself and yourself and your teen a favor. Without an overbearing parental pressure, your teen will be more likely to find herself without major drama.
Guide Your Teen When Out of Line
Letting go does not mean giving up. When your child acts out of line, be sure to explain how his actions make you feel. Teenagers will often act inappropriately due to peer pressure; this is normal. However, you should never neglect a teen’s truly inappropriate behavior, such as bullying or criminal behavior.
Coach Your Teen through Hard Times
No teen’s social life goes perfectly smooth. Your teen will inevitably meet with hard times. Developmental psychologist John Gottman recommends using emotional coaching in some form to help your teen get through emotionally hard times. Ask your teen about how he feels and help him brainstorm solutions to his problems without directly involving yourself.
Show Mutual Respect
Children suddenly become brave when they reach the teenage years. They may talk back or openly mock you. If you know this is done in a joking manner, it is okay to ignore; you need not punish all rude behavior. However, part of being emotionally intelligent is understanding others’ feelings. When your teenager has truly upset you, let her know. Show her that respect is mutual in the family, and that true families have an emotional understanding of one another.
Don’t Be the “Know-It-All”
When your child is young, it’s easy for a parent to play the role of the go-to source for all questions. Thus, many parents get in the habit of wanting to solve all of their teen’s problems. However, part of growing emotionally is learning to deal with situations on one’s own. Only offer help to your teen when you notice a real emotional problem or if your teen asks for it. Coaching your teen through hard times is important, but being nosy and a “know-it-all” can be detrimental.
Perhaps the hardest part of raising a teen is allowing that teen to individualize himself in ways that you disagree with. But stifling a child’s freedom of expression is likely to give rise to emotional problems and create an emotional distance between parent and child. Your teen’s new hairstyle or rock band may not be up your alley, and you can let him know this, but restricting him from self-expression will often lead to more harm than good. Remember that extreme music, styles, and slang exist in every generation; your way of self-expression in your teen years likely upset your parent’s too, but it allowed you to find yourself.
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