Being the parent of a tween or young teen is no easy task! Parents, as well as the children themselves, must get used to the youth’s rapidly changing bodies, mood swings, growing independence and challenges to authority.
No one trick or technique will work for every parent or with every young person. This fact sheet offers ideas to help build positive relationships between parents and youth, and to deal with problems when they arise.
Listen for feelings
When your child comes to you with a problem or when he or she expresses strong feelings, it helps to say something like, “Sounds like you’re feeling…” and label the emotion. This helps him or her to know that you are trying to understand.
Example: Your son comes home after school and says, “The teacher yelled at me today.” You might say, “Sounds like you were embarrassed.”
Remember preteen and teen development
Your child is going through many changes. Growing independence and challenges to authority are normal. At this age, most youth want to be independent, spend more time with friends and more time by themselves. Sassing and back talk are normal even though you will probably want to let your child know that it is unacceptable.
Example: If it bothers you that your child doesn’t want to spend as much time with you, remember that this is normal and healthy. Occasionally, schedule time for you and your child, or the whole family, to have fun together.
Notice good behavior
Make praise specific and frequent. Young people learn better from positive actions (encouragement and extra privileges) than from negative ones (punishment or losing privileges).
Example: If your child does a good job mowing the lawn, you might say, “The lawn looks really good. You trimmed around the trees and put the mower away. Thanks for doing such a good job.”
Give a reward
Use special privileges and one-on-one time to reward good behavior.
Example: If your son has argued over chores in the past, but this week follows through and gets everything done, you might let him stay up later on the weekend, have a friend over or take a trip with you for ice cream.
Plan time for family fun
Time spent doing fun things together helps build a reserve of good feelings that can help you get through hard times. Let your child help plan family events and outings.
Example: If you are planning a vacation, let your child order brochures and help decide where to stop and what to see.
Practice reflective listening
When you are working together with your youth to solve a problem, stop to summarize what he or she has said so your youth knows you have really heard. Resist the temptation to criticize or lecture.
Example: When your daughter says, “I hate the way I look. Everything looks dumb on me,” you might say, “Sounds like you’re pretty frustrated over the way your clothes look on you.”
Keep one-on-one time
Spending one-on-one time alone with your son or daughter can be a special time for both of you. That time together can let your child know you really care.
Example: Take turns with each child in the family for a special time. It could be going out for breakfast, playing a board game or going for a hike or bike ride together.
Use driving time to talk
Most parents of tweens and early teens spend time driving the child to school, lessons, ball games or shopping. Children may be more willing to open up in this environment than when they are at home.
Example: On the way to basketball practice, say to your son or daughter, “Tell me about school today,” or ask about a favorite hobby or their friends.