The teenage years are often a difficult period in the lives of both child and parent. It's a time of turmoil, power struggles and rebellion as your child increases self-awareness and seeks to understand his or her place in the world.
While parent-teen conflict may seem inevitable, there are ways to reduce the arguing while helping your child better navigate the teenage years.
+ Stay in control! Remember you are the adult. Your teen may be trying to act grown-up, but deep down realizes that protection and guidance is needed. Children want to be reassured their parents are still in control. Parents are a major guiding force in a teen's life, depended upon to monitor and respond to thoughts, feelings and emotions.
+Learn to listen! It's easy to be the busy adult, ignoring or misunderstanding your child. Instead, try to remember your own teen years and to understand what your child is feeling and trying to express. Really listening to your child, understanding and respecting what is being expressed, and then responding lovingly, can make a big difference to your teen and help strengthen and improve overall communication.
+Set limits, but allow options! Despite the arguing, teenagers understand there are limits to what will be allowed. But instead of being the dictator, try presenting options that allow some goals to be met while still staying within the limits you set. Having choices is important to your fledgling adult. Having choices may also mean that mistakes will be made. Respect your child's right to be wrong sometimes, and be ready to offer needed emotional support when an error is made.
+Build a relationship! You're not trying to be your child's best friend, but rather an adult who can be depended upon and trusted. Get to know your child. Try to understand his or her friends, interests, and feelings. Let your child know you as an adult with your own feelings, values and rights.
As children grow toward adulthood, conflict is inevitable. Parents see their babies disappearing, while children see their growing maturity and independence being ignored. Showing you're aware of such changes, and willing to cope with them while still maintaining reasonable limits, can mean a more positive relationship for both of you.
"The Counseling Corner" is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation's largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more about the counseling profession at the ACA web site, www.counseling.org .