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How to Navigate the Teenage Years

How to Navigate the Teenage Years
Posted on April 12, 2019 by CHS

The teenage years may be a challenging time for parents and teens alike. Children are growing into adults, experiencing various changes, and figuring out how to be more independent. The following tips can help you navigate the teenage years with more ease.

Pilot to Co-Pilot
According to Dr. John Sharry, a social worker and child and family psychotherapist, it can be helpful to adjust your role from being a parent to becoming a co-pilot with your child. From the moment a child is born, the parent is in the pilot seat and controls all aspects of a child’s life. From the outfit the child wears, to the food she eats, and the people she talks to; parents make most of the decisions for their children. As your child grows into a teenager, becoming a co-pilot and slowly allowing your child to make her own decisions will help her eventually pilot her own plane into adulthood. Teach the skills teenagers need to become confident adults, such as managing finances, cooking simple meals, doing laundry, and other skills that will prepare her for managing her own life.

Understand Their Passion
As your child grows, he will begin finding his own passions, and they may differ from what you’re passionate about or knowledgeable about. For example, your child may become interested in building his own computer and coding in his teenage years. Make an effort to learn about your child’s passion so that you can engage in a conversation about something he loves. This will show him that you value his thoughts, opinions, and ideas.

Be Understanding
Many teenagers are still learning how to balance all the changes, and this can be stressful. If you are struggling to have a conversation with your child without them expressing negative behaviors such as eye rolling or speaking disrespectfully to you, take a deep breath, calm down, and say “It’s difficult to have a productive conversation with you when you behave disrespectfully. Please speak to me with the same respect I am showing you.” Give the time and space to adjust, and as your teen learns to manage challenges and responsibilities their attitude will improve. No matter what, reassure your child that you will always be there for support.

Promote Body Positivity
To be body positive means to love your body regardless of external messages about how bodies “should” look. Comparing our bodies to those of our friends, or those of models and celebrities in magazines or social media can be a big issue among teenagers. The changes in their bodies and hormone levels can lead to feeling insecure about the appearance of their own bodies. One of the things parents can do to help is teach their child to love their body just as it is. Many healthy physical characteristics are not reflected in magazines or media, so it is up to us to remind our children that there are a variety of healthy body types and that they are valued as people regardless of their physical appearance. If your child is unhappy with his appearance, be there for him and support him in making changes you deem to be healthy and safe. When you think about making these changes, consider their health to be the top priority. Be observant to signs of unhealthy dieting or exercising. Parents can also serve as a role model for body positivity by paying attention to how they talk about their own appearance.

Provide Support
Teenagers, in navigating all the changes they are dealing with, might shut down or be less willing to share their experiences and thoughts with their parents. Continue to maintain an open line of communication with your teen  and if they don’t feel comfortable  talking to you, support  them in speaking with  an adult that you trust, such as a family member, school counselor, or therapist. The more responsible adults that teens have on their side, the better they can navigate their teenage years.

Let Them Learn from Mistakes
Parents want to protect their children from harm or difficulties in their lives.  Help your teen grow into a responsible adult by learning how to adapt to difficult situations and take responsibility for their own actions. Offer them guidance and let them know you are available, but allow them to earn independence. Sheltering your child from the possibility of failure can make the transition to adulthood harder. Guiding them towards independence prepares them for life.

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