Bonding with your Teenager

Thursday, June 04, 2015

A quick guide to decoding what your teenager is saying and how to stop drifting apart.

The teenage years are never easy. We know that, because weren’t we all teenagers once? For your child, it’s just as full of changes. As they are beginning to assert their independence, you may feel like they are pulling away from you. By making the effort to understand what they are feeling, and the challenges they’re facing, you’ll feel less frustrated. Your relationship will grow stronger too.

Be sensitive to their body changes

As your teen goes through a series of body changes, they become sensitive and anxious about their physical development, conscious of their appearance and people’s perception of them.

Here are some tips on what you can do:

  • Be sensitive with your comments on your teenagers' body image and dressing. Help them look and feel better by not pointing out differences and by reassuring them that what they are going through is normal.
  • Give them the opportunity to develop at their own pace, rather than comparing them with others.
  • Encourage and help arrange for your teenager to engage in activities that will build up self-esteem – like taking on leadership roles in school or starting a new hobby. You could even pursue an interest together.

Consider their changing emotions

During puberty, while coping with the hormonal changes physically, your teen may also experience frequent mood swings.

Here are some tips on handling them:

  • Be patient if your teenager is being difficult or unreasonable. Give them time to calm down and then discuss the matter.
  • Listen to your teenager to understand their feelings and the reasons behind their emotions. Listening will help to calm them down because they feel heard and cared for.
  • Try not to argue with them. Instead, speak to them objectively, keep things in perspective and explain your stand carefully.

As your child enters their teenage years, they begin to want more autonomy to make decisions. They are trying to figure out how they are different from others and how they fit into the world.This is totally normal and not a rejection of you. Friends may become more important and more influential in their thoughts and behaviours than you. Not all peer influences are bad. However, you need to be careful to advise them when the influences become undesirable.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Respect his or her privacy – Let them have their own space at home, but try to engage them in conversations to find out more about their lives, for example, their friends, co-curricular activities, life in school, movies they have watched, instead of focusing only on their studies.
  • Have a healthy curiosity about what teens are into – Be careful not to seem like you are prying. Taking an interest in their lives and learning from your teen will boost their self-esteem.
  • Trust them and allow them time to socialise with their friends – While you may disagree with the company they keep, try to avoid making comments about their friends. Instead, ask more about what they do together, discuss the risks of engaging in certain activities and suggest interesting alternatives for them to do. If possible, invite their friends to your home and find out more about them.
  • Try not to admonish your teen in public - If you need to punish them, do so in private and be careful not to hurt their pride.

In short, you can USE those teenage years to strengthen your bond:

Understanding that comes from listening.
Spend quality time and participating in activities together.
Encourage them to try new things and show interest in what they are doing.

You can start doing these things today. The quality time and effort you put in will go a long way in fostering a stronger and better relationship between both of you.

Contributed By: Health Promotion Board (HPB)
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