Raising tweens and teens can become a difficult road to navigate, and quite quickly at that. You’ve got a 10 year old on your hands and then in a blink of an eye they’re starting to become a mini adult. During this time hormones are raging and emotions are running high. They might start to pull back and feel like they’re pushing you away, and you may get into one too few too many arguments; and you might think to yourself, what even triggered that outburst!?
Karen Young, a neurodevelopment educator, author, speaker and consultant, specialising in child and adolescent anxiety provides some tips to help you stay connected and avoid conflict where ever possible.
Dip in and dip out with a quick daily text
You might be thinking, but texting is what causes disconnect!? How does this work? Karen highlights that in some circumstances, texting can be good. It’s a great way to do a daily check in, so you’re consistent with your contact whether you live with them or not. It shows your teens they’re on your mind, even when you’re not with them. We know Gen z’s aren’t always a fan of a phone call, so texting is a good option.
What should you text them?
- ‘I’m thinking of you’ text
- If you don’t live with your child, and they told you what their plans were for the weekend. Follow up on Monday and ask how it went.
- Send them a funny meme or video
Don’t let their behaviour change what you do
What this means is, if they’re pulling back, respect their privacy, but always let them know you’re there for when they need you. Make it easy to connect with you, as let’s face it, even if it doesn’t seem like it now, they’ll always need their dad! Even well into adulthood.
Take note of the detail in their life
We said it before, but we’ll say it again. Even if they seem like they don’t want you to be the main character in their life at the moment, always take notice and be inquisitive about what’s going on in their life. If they’ve told you about a friend’s gathering they’re going to on the weekend, follow it up, even if they don’t bring it up.
Now… onto the conflict. How do we avoid it in the best way possible?
Make your intentions clear in conversations
Karen notes that the biggest thing, is to make your intentions clear in a conversation. As adults, we think we’re being clear by making a statement or asking a question, but to our teens, this isn’t always the case. This is the case because teens read non-verbal cues and expressions using the part of their brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for fight or flight mode. Us adults are a bit better at reading non-verbal cues and are able to understand the true message.
Your tone of voice is also important, try to communicate with warmth, interest and love.
Ok, but how do I do make my intentions as clear as possible?
A simple example is as follows:
If you want to know what time they’ll be home from their friends house. Instead of asking “what time will you be home” and having it misinterpreted by your teen that they’re not trusted and they need to be managed.
Instead, say “I love that you’re going out with your friends, can’t wait to hear about it! What time do you think you’ll be home?”
This instead makes your intention clear, let’s them know you trust them and happy to hear they’re seeing their friends without looking like you’re micro-managing them.
Raising tweens and teens can be a bumpy ride, but ensuring you try to stay connected, and navigate conversations to help avoid conflict where ever possible, will work to foster your relationship as they move through these key years.
To learn more about Karen Young’s work, visit her website.