Although teens are attempting to pull away from their parents, they also may need to hang on to their parents for many reasons. Teens are on a bridge between childhood and adulthood and may waver between the two ends as they progress through adolescence.
Because of this, parents and teens might experience points of contention, conflict, and chaos from time to time. In fact, a tumultuous parent-teen relationship is the quintessential experience of being an adolescent.
However, it doesn’t have to be. If parents can do their best to maintain a channel of communication with their teen, it can in fact improve their child’s life. For instance, there are many social skills teens are still developing. On the whole, until they learn to become more empathic, they may continue easily get into arguments with others, especially their parents. They might make assumptions and react based upon those assumptions.
Furthermore, as teens begin to discover more and more about who they are as an individual, they may also become vulnerable to peer rejection. In general, adolescence tends to come with social anxiety and therefore a focus on the self when it comes to social situations. One interesting psychological trait of teens is the belief in being the center of attention, even when they are not. Teens can be self-conscious and self-centered. Of course, this isn’t true for all adolescents, but it can be for many. And knowing this can help explain the behaviors of teens.
Also, these traits don’t have to get in the way of good parent-teen communication. In a recent survey regarding teen online use , it was found that teens whose parents spoke to them “a lot” had more positive experiences and had fewer risks to their health. These teens reported:
- greater concern about their health and personal investment in keeping themselves safe.
- greater concern about online safety and sharing of personal information and photos
- less use of drugs and alcohol especially if their parents encouraged abstinence and communicated the dangers of substance use
- more limited sharing of information and pictures via the Internet
- fewer incidences of public online profiles
- fewer incidences of talking or meeting people they only know from online sources
Although this was specifically for teen online use, good communication between parents and children can support other areas of a teen’s life. It can promote a teen’s maturity, help him or her make choices that support their well being, help a teen avoid situations that might be dangerous, and support living a life that is balanced.
It should be noted that good communication between parents and teens could be facilitated if parents aim to be good role models for their children. For instance, if parents are modeling safe drinking habits or abstinence this can be a strong indication for their teen to make a similar choice when faced with an invitation to drink.
At the same time, parents might sometimes need their teen to let them in on the struggles they’re facing. For instance, teens might need help in being assertive or in communication skills or standing up for himself. Adults can support a teen by participating in a role play and letting a teen practice being assertive, for instance. Parents can also be allies for teens when they’re learning how to make healthy and life-affirming decisions.
Adults can also help a teen be honest by helping them understand that they don’t have to do something wrong to feel accepted by peers. Parents can communicate that real friends won’t pressure their peers to drink, smoke, or use illicit drugs. Lastly, adults can help a teen be aware of risky situations. Parents can help their children by knowing who their friends are and even their friends’ family members. When parents know the habits and attitudes of who their children are spending time with, they can help by knowing how to support their teen in specific areas where he or she might need support.
Perhaps communication isn’t the only aspect of a parent-teen relationship that brings benefits. When parents and teens are related in deep ways and when their relationship is open, teens can feel greatly supported to be the individual they are meant to be.
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.