teen·ag·er /ˈtēnˌājər/: A person between the ages of 13 and 19 years old. Synonyms: Juvenile, Rebellious, Moody, Irrational, Extra etc…
If you are raising or caring for a teenager, you can probably relate to this short description. Moreover, I can imagine that if you are reading this you likely struggle to handle and make sense of their behavior from time to time, or maybe most of the time. First, give yourself a moment to breathe, teenagerdom is a difficult task for us and them. Here are 3 tips to help you manage your trying teen.
1) Be Present, Not Perfect
This first one calls for a perspective shift. The idea that you will always get it “right” or that you “must” or “should” be a certain type of parent is unproductive. There is no perfect parent and it is important that they can see you as an imperfect person who can own up to their mistakes and apologize when needed. Being a real person who can learn from errors and still be internally “ok” is just as important as establishing boundaries, values, consequences, and responsibilities. Likewise, there is no perfect teenager. Unhelpful and unreasonable expectations only encourage negative emotions in both adults and teens. Allow for natural consequences, learning from mistakes, and be sure to find the silver lining, it’s there.
2) The Struggle is Real
According to Erikson, adolescents are confronted with the challenge of developing a strong sense of self. In short, this is their chance to develop their identity and begin to figure out who they are and what they are all about in a dynamic world. It is imperative that they meet this challenge as they build and lose relationships, navigate school and workforce systems, and increase interaction with other non-related adults. A foundational sense of self-equips them to know their limits, make sensible choices and stay true to their beliefs when they are no longer being watched by caring adults (you). Lacking this sense of personhood in the reality of a challenging and changing adult environment can lead to extreme choices and behaviors of now young adults who have zero clue of what they value or believe in. Help them grow in risk taking and decision making along with boundaries, values, consequences, and responsibilities
3) Be a Manager and a Leader Not a Dictator
Control is a fallacy. Let go of the idea of control and shift to a management perspective with your teen. Forbes.com writer, Maren Hogan informs us that great managers are organization loving optimists who lead with empathy, honesty, and accountability. Sound like Kim-Jong Un? Nope, not at all. In addition to a manager, be a leader. Experts in the leadership training field hold the idea of transformational leadership with high regard. Transformational leaders utilize “rapport, inspiration, and empathy to engage followers” in figuring out new ways to solve problems, build on strengths, and help grow future leaders. Prepare your teens to make decisions and lead others rather than being led astray by wayward peers.
If you would like more personalized help for yourself or your teen, please call Believe Behavioral Health today at 361-894-8734. We specialize in behavioral health services for children, adolescents, and adults. We provide targeted case-management & skills training, psychotherapy/counseling, and access to psychiatric services based on your clinical need.
Joseph Smullen, LCSW is a psychotherapist with Believe Behavioral Health.