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Family Counseling: Parenting Teens
Family Counseling: Finding the Balance with Your Teens
If you are the parent of a teen, then it probably comes as no surprise to you that many parents seek family counseling in an effort to try and understand how they can connect with their teen. Teenagers are many things; they can be fun, smart, and ambitious.
They can also be overwhelming and strong-willed. It’s no wonder you run into highs and lows when it comes to parenting your teen! (Related Article: Counseling- A Secret to Making it Work).
Today, you will learn more about the unique challenges of your current phase and how you can balance strict and flexible parenting.
Adjusting to Parenting Teens
As your kids grow older, you probably notice a shift in your parenting responsibilities. You probably also notice a change in how you react to your kids’ actions and the nature of your relationship.
Luckily, these changes in your family life are normal and expected! Marriage and family researchers have studied the phases you will experience as a couple and a family (Source). Understanding your current phase can help you understand how to adjust to the changes around you and how to cope with stress.
The Right Way to Parent
Let’s start by talking about the nature of parenting your teens in this phase of life. Adolescents can be funny, smart, creative, and ambitious. But, you also see the full range of emotions and stressors your teen goes through. You may wonder the best way you can support and influence them as they move towards adulthood. (Related article: Looking for parenting advice? Maybe there’s a different way).
You might have a tendency to react to your teen by being very strict. Or you may respond with a very hands-off approach. Is there a “right” way to parent a teen? Research has taught us that there isn’t one universal “right way” to parent teens. (Related article: Parenting: Back to the Basics). However, there are some strategies that tend to be more effective for most kids.
Freedom (With Boundaries)
What does that look like for you? A good way to picture it is to think about having freedom and boundaries. That might seem counterproductive, but if you use them both correctly, freedom and boundaries can complement each other.
When it comes to parenting teens, using overly strict parenting approaches can lead to hurt feelings, miscommunication, and a
lack of room to grow. In fact, research has shown us that parents who employ excessively strict parenting strategies find that these approaches will backfire and lead to more difficult behavior in response. (Source). Meanwhile, parents who are overly permissive when they parent teens may find it hard to provide structure and teach necessary life skills to their teens.
Find The Balance
As with most things, parenting your teen effectively requires balance. In this case, you should work to balance practical rules and freedom to explore. Think of it like taking a child to a fenced playground. You have provided a fence (a boundary) that gives the child a safe place to freely explore the playground equipment. With your teen, it will be important to give them that safe place to
For instance, let’s say you want to create a curfew for your teen, now that they can drive. You might take time to sit with them and discuss what they ideally want when it comes to a curfew. (Related article: Family Counseling- Family Meeting Tips). Maybe your teen says they want to stay out until 2 AM. You might respond by suggesting they have a midnight curfew that still allows them time to go out and have fun with their friends. However, in addition, you might also suggest that they text you when they plan to head home. That way, you can be ready to receive them at the house and lock the door before everyone goes to sleep.
Notice how in this example you did not jump to a very early curfew or just say “no” in response to their 2 AM suggestion. Instead, you set a boundary, but also gave them the freedom to stay out and have fun, within reason. That’s the name of the game when it comes to teens. Space to grow, but with appropriate limits. (Related Article: How to Communicate Better Through Boundaries).
Family Counseling Can Help You Find the Balance
Written by Lauren Adkins