A number of people have asked me for thoughts about parenting and teenagers. Step one has to be to talk with other parents and ask for their advice.
It is in laying down boundaries and trying to get the balance with boundaries and freedom that parents often struggle. It might be helpful to remember that it is impossible to always get it right. In fact, when you don’t get it right, it gives more opportunity for dialogue with your teenager. It can be hard to keep open the lines of communication, and it can be a way in to admit that you got something wrong, to model an ability to self-reflect and to say sorry. Keeping an open dialogue is important, and even if you receive a grunt after an enquiry into your teenager’s well-being, it is most likely that the younger and more fearful part of that same grunting teenager will feel pleased and safe to know that his or her parent is still interested.
It will also be helpful, I think, to link the theory from my last article to the strategies you adopt. I referred to teenagers being very mature whilst at the same time clinging on to childish things. Also, they have the stresses of exams, changing bodies, peer pressure, and most importantly the knowledge that they will soon become independent adults who are likely to leave their parents and their home.
In trying to overcome these stresses, and in preparation for the huge task of separation ahead of them, many teenagers quite rightly start to want their freedom, to be respected for their opinions and their ‘rights.’ They want to be in control of their lives, their work timetables, their relationships. Parents can help their teenagers in this process by giving them more freedom and by helping them to see that with more freedom comes more responsibility. If they are allowed out with their friends until an agreed time, it is their responsibility to return at the agreed time. If they do not manage to, there should be a discussion and, if necessary, consequences. Younger teenagers need clear boundaries, as the greater freedom they demand is still new to them, and they are learning how to manage it. Older teenagers will take this responsibility they have learnt into their lives and their social groups. They will hopefully be aware of friends who are overly risk-taking and will look out for them. They will increasingly be able to manage their work commitments too. So, your teenager gradually internalises a sense of responsibility and freedom – they go together. Once this process feels secure in the young person, he or she begins to feel ready to stand on his or her own two feet, as an independent adult.
Dr Angela Evans
Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist
Member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists
Thanks forr posting this