Parenting is the hardest job you will ever have. It’s easy to get caught up or stuck in a rut. Connecting with your children, especially your teenagers can be a daunting task. Finding the right words to say when “everything you do and say is embarrassing or wrong” is a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Therefore, in effort to support you in this challenging endeavor known as “parenting,” I have listed below five ways to connect, support, and empower your teen.
Let them choose. Giving your child a choice is empowering. It shows them their opinion matters, that their choice is valued and that you respect it. Obviously everything cannot be a choice, but certain things can. Letting your child choose (with limitations, of course) things like their extra-curricular activities, clothing, what sport they want to play or movie to see helps to give them a sense of ownership and independence. Choice increases motivation, pride and inspires people to work hard for what they chose to do.
5 Ways to Empower Your Teen
4. Emotional Safety
5. Active Listening
Empathize. It is important to remember that empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is your ability to identify and understand the emotions of another person. Verbalize how you think your child is feeling (examples: “you look so sad”, “I know this is so hard”, “I would be so mad too”). Empathizing with your child shows them that you recognize their emotion as valid, even though sometimes you are unable to change what is causing the emotion.
Admit your own mistakes. Even though you might not know it, your child watches you all the time. If you say something you wish you hadn’t, apologize. If you punished too harshly, admit it and make a change. If you forgot to do something you said you would, verbalize your error and let them know when you will work harder follow through with your promises. Acknowledging when you mess up, and modeling how to make amends, teaches your child that it is okay to make mistakes, and shows them how to make a right their wrongs.
Give emotional support. This skill takes empathy a step further, in that, it involves teaching your child about their feelings. Help them find the language to express what they are feeling. For some, knowing what to do when another person is upset is confusing and difficult. Teaching your child how to appropriately express anger, frustration, hurt, embarrassment is one of the most important life and relational skills they can have, because emotions impact every aspect of our lives. Show and communicate to your child that how they feel is always okay, they just need to know how to appropriately respond to those feelings.
Be an active listener. Listen first, respond second. If at all possible give your child your undivided attention, put away your phone while they are talking. Use eye contact, show you are listening using nonverbal communication such as head nods, mmhmm’s, and clarifying questions. Remember to work hard at empathizing and deferring judgment and/or advice. After your child has finished talking, ask your child if they are wanting advice, a solution, or if they simply want you to listen.
Again, parenting can be such a challenging endeavor; and with all the research and literature on the subject, there are still no “correct” ways to do it. However, improvement should be on your list of priorities. Thus, I hope these few suggestions are helpful for you in your efforts to “do it better.” If you have any concerns about your children or family, feel free to contact me as I would be pleased to serve you if I am able.
Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor