While the return to a daily routine that comes with the beginning of a new school year may be a relief for some parents, teens may not feel the same relief. For many, school, and the stressors that come with it, can have a tremendous impact on their personalities.
Hormonal changes, brain changes and social pressures contribute to these stressors.
Thoughtful Parenting: Youth Services
This weekly column about parenting issues is written by area youth-serving professionals. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.
According to a 2013 American Psychological Association Survey, teen stress rivals that of adults. Between today’s highly competitive college entrance requirements and demand for multiple degrees, teens are increasingly faced with stress that far exceeds their parents’ generation.
Additionally, the pressures of social media is something no one born before 1984 can even remotely relate to, especially if you weren’t born into the perfect face, body, house, car or life.
The point is, give them a break, and break it down. As the heat turns up for adolescents, and parents begin the “have you done your homework?” line of questioning, family relationships can feel the effects.
If you are focused on what is going wrong, then you are focusing on the problem you see in your kids — it means correcting, criticizing, fixing, disciplining, punishing, etc. Does it work when you tell your teenager he or she should be different? Have you often changed after someone told you how wrong you were and how much you needed to change?
Sometimes, a person might recognize the need for change and take action. However, most of the time, it doesn't work. So what do we do next? Often, we keep trying harder, louder and longer, hoping that, one day, the teen in question will get it. In the book “Anatomy of Peace,” the authors refer to this as a “heart at war.” This is where parents begin to see their teenagers as a problem to be fixed rather than a person to love and adore.
In order to invite change, helping things go right is the biggest part of the work. For example, catch them doing something good, and take the time to recognize it. Spend one week asking your kids open-ended questions that require more than a one-word response. Spend time in their world and pay attention to what they are interested in. Learn from them. Let them experience your curiosity about their world. Try not to be preoccupied with correcting or teaching or imparting wisdom — just listen.
Spending time building the relationship with your teen, their friends and influencers will help you come from a “heart at peace,” which is the place where we have more of a chance to invite change.
There is nothing wrong with wanting others to change, but if dealing with what's going wrong doesn't work, it’s usually because we have been doing it at the expense of helping things go right. So, try something new; you might be surprised by what you will learn.
Martyn and Wendler have started a Parent2 Partner training series that will begin in November for parents of tweens and teens. The series will focus on how to talk to your tweens and teens and specific techniques to better your relationship. For more information, email email@example.com.