Communicating with Adolescents

One of the most frequent complaints I  hear as a therapist has to do with parenting adolescents.  Parents often identify this time of a child’s life as the most difficult time to parent.  And while I understand why that’s the case, it was not my experience as a mother.  I loved parenting teenagers.  My youngest child will be a teenager for only 5 more months.  And while it has not always been easy, in general, I found parenting teenagers to be a lot of fun.  Here’s my  advice for enjoying this stage of parenting:

1.  Keep your sense of humor! First of all, laugh with your teenager.  Listen to what they think is funny.  Watch the Youtube videos that you hear them laughing about.  Watch their funny movies or tv shows with them occasionally.  Try not to be a prude…some of it may seem a bit over the top for you.  Laugh anyway!  Also, laugh with your spouse or friends of other teenagers about the crazy things your kids are doing.  It’s a good outlet for you to call a  friend and say, “You won’t believe what he’s doing now…”  Don’t take it all so seriously.

2.  Know your teenager’s friends. Be welcoming and friendly to them.  Let your kids know your home is open to their friends.  It’s the best way to know what’s going on in your kids lives.  It may make for a noisy weekend to have a house full of teenagers playing video games, but I always preferred that to having them at some other home and not knowing what was going on.  Also, don’t be overly critical of their friends.  If they’re using drugs or are bad influences in important ways, that’s one thing.  But if it’s just that you don’t like their pink hair or their pierced nose, keep your mouth shut.

3.  Remember that adolescence is a lot like being a toddler again.  One minute they need you. The next they want to do it themselves.  That’s normal.  Try to roll with it.

4.  Don’t act too shocked when they tell you something.  Listen  a lot more than talk.  And when they tell  you something and you want to drop your mouth open and say “WHAT??”, refrain from the reaction!  Sometimes they may be testing you to see how much they can say.  If you act too shocked they will stop talking.

5.  This may the most important of all…Don’t take it personally.  It’s rarely about you.  When they forget to call you when they get there, or when you don’t hear from them at college, or when they choose to spend spring break at the beach with their friends instead of with the family, it is not about you.  It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or appreciate you, or care about your feelings.  It means they’re growing up. Isn’t that what we want for them?  They still need you.  They just need you differently now!

How have you dealt with parenting adolescents?  What advice can you add?

About Gretchen Derda (Woosley), MSW, LCSW

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in a private psychotherapy practice where I specialize in work with families and children. My focus is to help families improve their functioning so that each member of the family can reach their full potential, becoming the persons they were meant to be.
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5 Responses to Communicating with Adolescents

  1. Emily says:

    Your advice is so good Gretchen! This is exactly the stage where I am at with my oldest, almost 15 years old. It’s the whole girl thing that is making me the most nervous right now! Wish he would get interested a bit later, but yeah, that’s not gonna happen!!

    • Gretchen D. Woosley, MSW, LCSW says:

      We all wish we could delay the dating issue, don’t we? Just keep him talking and you’ll be in good shape. Thanks for your kind comments.

  2. magpiestop says:

    Greta advice Gretchen.
    Major on the majors, and let the rest GO….everything does not need to become a battle of wills.really.
    Treasure the time with your kids, they are grown and gone way before you can believe it!
    Enjoy them they can be really good company! Laugh often! relax!

  3. Gretchen D. Woosley, MSW, LCSW says:

    All good suggestions, Martha! They really do grow up quickly, don’t they?

  4. Dianne says:

    Loved this Gretchen! Your kids are a prime example that you practice what you preach. You nurtured a very happy home. 🙂

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