Teenagers Need to Practice Relationships With Parental Guidance

Are you pleased with the young man your daughter has chosen to “go out with?”

Do you feel comfortable with the young lady that your son is “thinking about?”

If you are able to answer “YES” to one or both of the above, CONGRATULATIONS!  In “practicing” this relationship thing, most teenagers do NOT bring a sense of comfort to their parents.  In choosing to assert their independence, teenagers often chose the opposite of what they instinctively know will be who their parents would NOT approve of.

So now that you’ve swallowed hard and admitted that you are concerned for your son or daughter’s choices, what do you do about it?

Here’s a List of WHAT NOT TO DO:

  1. Wait until the couple of concern is present and then begin to ask probing questions of their relationship and/or focus on your concerns.
  2. Whenever your teenager has been “out of the house” make sure to question him/her thoroughly upon his/her return home.
  3. Tell your teenager that you are not sure you can trust him/her anymore based upon the choice of this one particular person.
  4. Be vigilant.  Assume that if your teenager is late, not eating enough, staying in his room too much, doing poorly on a test at school, that it is all the fault of the dating partner; and, tell your teenager your suspicions–repeatedly.

So now that we’ve established the interactions that most of us have had with our Practicing Teenagers, here’s the HOW TO LIST:

  1. Do wait until both you and your teenager are calm and are without any kind of audience to speak about your son or daughter’s “relationship.”
  2. Instead of asking “WHY?” try asking “BECAUSE?”  This allows your teenager to not have to be defensive, but rather think about the honesty of his or her answer.
  3. Refrain from teasing your teenager about any aspect of this relationship as long as your teenager knows that you are concerned about the relationship.
  4. If you are struggling with your ability to talk about your concerns, fill in the blanks of this old formula:

I FEEL _________________

WHEN ___________________

WHAT I WANT IS _________________________

I have found parents who seemingly have forgotten how important these times and feelings are to teenagers.  These are real emotions between two people who have had little experimentation with these new feelings.  By not showing respect, parents often alienate themselves from the teenager’s ability to feel safe with one or both parents.  Poor communication between parent and child then leads to further schisms in this all important relationship.

Please remember that even when it feels like you have regained a safe relationship with your teenager, tread very carefully around anything that can be construed as a double message or a “put down.”  Teenagers are extremely wary of authority figures “dissing” them or not being honest and genuine.

Be there for your child.  And, let your child have some wings.  We all learn from experiencing and practicing, but never more so than when we know we have someone who will always love us and hold us close.

Be gentle with yourself and your lovely, graceful, funny and awkward teenager.

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