As seen on Nationwide Children's Hospital's 700 Childrens® Blog
Parenting a teenager is a hard job. Both kids and parents are faced with navigating uncharted waters of academics, relationships, social media, peer pressure and the stress of graduation. Finding creative strategies and solutions to address tough moments can help get you through those choppy waters of adolescence.
Deposit Into a Love Account
Similar to a bank account, you can’t withdraw money without depositing first or you’ll end up with a negative balance. This concept is the same for your relationship with your teen. It can seem as if all you do is fight, or suffer through silent treatments and tension. It is during these difficult moments that we need to keep the love bank account full.
Before you get to that point, make time to do something with your teen – take a walk, listen to music, cook a meal or watch a show. These moments will serve as “deposits” and can help nurture a positive relationship. This special time helps you avoid going “into the red” and makes those rough patches a little bit smoother.
The Exit and Wait Strategy
During times of conflict or heated arguments, it is important to appropriately model conflict resolution skills. If you get emotional, your teen may think you won’t follow through with a rule or consequence. By leaving a conflict before that happens, you can control the mood of the argument and let your teenager know that acting out won’t get them what they want!
Create Behavioral Contracts and Consistency
A clearly written, black and white behavior contract can be the key to managing behaviors. Written contracts help both parents and teenagers remain on the same page about expectations and avoid off-the-cuff rule making. Being clear and consistent with your plan will help your teenager understand the contract is mandatory, not optional. Keep in mind that it takes an average of 30 days straight to change a behavior, so consistency is key to a well-run behavior contract.
Set Clear Consequences and Incentives
All teenagers (whether they show it or not) crave positive attention. If positive reinforcement is not frequently given, they will settle for negative attention. Keep in mind that incentives don’t need to cost money. Think of freebies like extra time on their cell phone, some extra minutes past curfew or letting them control the radio in the car.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help!
Identifying resources for your child outside of the home such as mentors, mental health counselors or supportive adults at school can help with the message you are trying to send. In addition, don’t forget yourself. Who can you turn to for your own support? Clergy members, neighbors, friends, counselors can all help support us during stressful times.
No matter what is going on, it is important to practice self-compassion and forgiveness with yourself. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Mistakes will happen. A mistake doesn’t mean we are bad parents or bad people. In fact, recognizing our mistakes and acknowledging that we aren’t perfect can help enhance the relationship we have with our children.
Emily Getschman is an independent social worker and supervisor for the middle/high school-based program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has been with Nationwide Children’s for over six years and has held roles as a community based clinician, inpatient therapist and school-based clinician. She currently supervises a team of clinicians who provide mental health treatment to students in central Ohio.