Dedicated to all those parents doing the absolute best job they can!
Healthy relationship with you:
As a parent, you are at the centre of your teenager’s most important relationship. YES – their most important relationship is with you! Your relationship with each other will have moments of strength, and moments of disaster. The way you choose to foster this relationship will have an enormous impact on your teenager’s overall wellbeing.
Your definition of being a parent might mean to ‘bring up, look after, take care of and nurture’. Your teenager’s definition of a parent might be ‘Uber driver, pantry supplier, resolution-expert and counsellor.’ At no point – in any textbook or website – will you ever find that you should be your teen’s ‘best friend’. Choosing your child as a bestie is paving the path for unclear boundaries.
Boundaries are essential for the safety and best interests of young people. It is important that we discuss issues with our teenagers, but sometimes we need to make adult decisions for them where their best interests are concerned. Teenagers are risk takers – they’re highly charged with emotions and lack decision-making maturity. If you’re their ‘bestie’, your teenager may disregard the years of experience and knowledge you have acquired, and ignore the advice and boundaries you set.
The opposite of the ‘bestie’ parent is a ’blasé’ one. This type of parent takes little to no interest in the teenage journey, and instead lets their child morph into adulthood alone. With little intervention or guidance, these teenagers take natural physical and mental risks, but navigate the ensuing emotions without the support they need. These teens may turn to their peers or others in search of the love and compassion they need to thrive. This sounds alarm bells! A ‘blasé’ parent typically has no idea of the maturity or intentions of this peer group, and life-changing mistakes can – and do – happen.
In simple terms, you want your style of parenting to be somewhere between ‘bestie’ and ‘blasé.’ You can choose your own name for this – Bliss, Boss or Bloody Legend! Allowing your teen to take risks and learn from their mistakes is important – but only when you are there to walk the journey with them. A healthy parent-teen relationship means overwhelming situations can be shared and calmly conquered, and heightened emotions can be managed as a team.
Listen more than talk. Teenagers need a good vent sometimes, and to just listen will often be enough. Pick your battles, and give your teen space to learn from life’s lessons. Encourage their passions, and make them a priority.
Spend time with your teen – book a trip away, watch a movie together, or perhaps go on a hike. Your care, love and boundaries will nurture their inner world. Family time is precious for teens, but so are their friendships – allow them to grow and become stronger. Above all, don’t pretend to be perfect, and admit when you get it wrong. Explain and demonstrate to your teen that you are human too and the emotions of love are the strongest ones we have, – and that’s okay.
Avoid the ‘bestie’ and ‘blasé’ and head towards the ‘bliss’. You’ve got this! You bloody legend.
By Kate Meadows
Kate offers Workplace Mental Health Training Courses for businesses. Check out details on her website.