Teen epidemic: there is a cure
My daughter will soon be a teenager. I’m excited and scared. The idea that my little princess is now moving into a less “princessy” stage is frightening. I’ve already started to notice a change in her mood. She’s also less interested in things we previously enjoyed doing together. Last week I was feeling much like the parent in the video below. That changed when I realized I have the skills to navigate the terrain we call the teen years.
What is wrong with my teen?
I have been asked this question many times while working with families as a counselor. The reality is that teenagers are emotionally and physically changing. Their bodies are developing into adults. The changes involve so many different factors that every teenagers experience is unique. The most important thing to remember is that changes are normal. Parents should expect their child’s mood and behaviors to change during this time. Some behaviors will be positive and some will be bewildering. Just hang in there.
For example, last week I asked my daughter about school. She shrugged her shoulders, dropped her backpack and went to her room. She didn’t say a word to me. This is not “normal” behavior for her. I asked again the following day with the same result. I talked to her about her response using Effective Communication and I found out that she did not want to talk about school. She told me everything was fine. I later learned that everything was fine according to her friends and her teacher. She just said she didn’t want to talk about everything and then she asked if I was ‘ok’ with that. I wasn’t but I conceded and offered her my support if she needed to talk about anything. I realized that she wants and needs her privacy. She is developing some independence from me. This is normal and I know it. I was taught this in school but it doesn’t make it easier. Either way, we are adjusting to a new set of ‘normal’ at my house.
How the skills on Smarter Parenting helped me
This is how I use the skills on Smarter Parenting are helping us adjust to the new normal.
I taught my daughter the skill of Decision Making. She is using it to decide what homework to do first, what to wear to school and which of her chores she needs to do first. She is making choices on her own. It has been a great skill for her to use in further developing her desire for independence.
We use Effective Communication everyday in our interactions. It keeps things open and she is able to come to me if she needs something. This skill has been a life saver for us. She is open about who she likes in school and what her friends do. Even though she is now more guarded about information, she continues to share things with us that sometimes shock us but we’ve learned not to flinch in order to keep the communication open. This has really strengthened our relationship.
I use Preventive Teaching everyday. I prepare her for things that may be coming up. Having her prepared for what may happen has been very helpful. We are also able to practice what she should do in those situations as well. This has been especially helpful as she is now interacting with more teenagers in our neighborhood. I prepare her for things she may experience with teen friends and what to do. For example, I forewarned her that some of her friends may want to do something silly that she would not want to do. We worked on how she could respond and practiced it a few times. She reported later that she was able to use it and that it worked. In a way, it prepares her (and me) for things in advance which has lessened my worry about what is happening with her once she leaves the house.
Advice I give all parents as a professional
I give all parents who come to me professionally the same advice. You are the expert on your child. Professionals are experts in their field of study. Parents know the behaviors, moods, idiosyncratic things that make their children tick. Often, parents who have come for help tell me they do not know what to do with their child. The reality is that they have not changed their parenting style to reflect the changes happening in their developing child. Making adjustments, adding a few things and tweaking the approach often yield greater results in helping shape a child’s behaviors. Parents, are the experts on their children. We are here to help you learn the skills professionals use to bring about lasting change but parents know what will be best for their child.
If a parent is using the skills on Smarter Parenting they can preemptively address most behaviors yet sometimes there are exceptions. If your chid is exhibiting the following behaviors please seek professional help:
- Physicially harming themselves or other people. (not eating, self-harm, suicidal talk, etc.)
- Reporting that they need help.
- Behaviors that escalate to the degree that it impedes all other functioning.
In all other cases, parents can address most problems as they arise on their own using the proven parenting skills of Smarter Parenting.
I am not sure what lies ahead for me and my daughter but I am grateful I have these parenting skills. The skills provide me with clear steps to follow. More importantly, I’m grateful to have the words or verbiage to use when sometimes I am at a loss for words. I will miss her princess days but I look forward to the person she is becoming and enjoying the person she is right now.