Parents and teenagers often get frustrated with one another because they feel as if they are misunderstood and unheard. As a parent, if you understand some of the developmental needs of a teenager, you may feel less stressed when they act out. Here are some key points on how you can better communicate with your teenager.
1. Social Pressure: Teenagers are under pressure to fit in with their social group. They are constantly looking for validation from their peer group because they have not yet developed a solid sense of identity. They might ask to do things their friends are doing, or have what their friends have so that they fit in. It is important to be flexible with this while still setting clear boundaries around what is safe and reasonable for your teenager.
2. Rejection: Teenagers often feel rejected if they have not found a peer group that they fit into. They might also feel rejected by a love interest. This sense of rejection can be horrible for your teen’s self-esteem. It is essential that they come home to a safe space that is free of judgement. As a parent, you might feel stressed by your teenager’s emotions and actions. It is in these moments that you remind your teenager that you love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries to keep them safe.
3. Cutting: Sometimes teenagers feel overwhelming emotional pain, rejection or pressure. They might resort to cutting to punish themselves, distract themselves from the emotional pain or to help them feel something other than numb. If your teenager is frequently cutting, a professional should be consulted.
4. Self-Identity: Sometimes it might seem like teenagers are rejecting their parents. This is in part because they are forming a self-identity. This is part of their developmental process as they figure out who they are. Try not to take this personally as it will increase conflict. Instead, ask what activity you can do with them. Set time aside to be with them.
5. Respect: Teenagers are often said to be disrespectful. People in general, including teenagers, are more likely to respect those that they feel offer them respect. If your teenager is disrespectful, be curious if you are respecting them. Make sure to take the time to listen to their concerns.
6. Sleep: Teenagers need more sleep than adults. Allow them to sleep in on the weekends. Try to get them to sleep earlier at night. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day will help with fatigue.
7. Impulsivity: Teenagers are more impulsive than adults because they are still developing the frontal lobe region of their brain. This can be dangerous if they are having suicidal thoughts, cutting or abusing substances.
If you feel overwhelmed by your teenager’s emotions and behaviours, reach out to a professional. Practice compassion and empathy towards yourself and your teenager.
Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist.
Reach out to Dr Borschel: firstname.lastname@example.org