One of the most challenging conflicts that can arise between teenagers and their parents happens when there is a difference of opinion about the other important people in the teenager’s life. This can be a girlfriend, boyfriend, or really any friend. As parents we have to remember that the other people in our teen’s life, their friends and peers, are just as important to them as we are, even if we don’t like to admit it. But the last thing a teenager that is surrounded by bad influences needs is to be cut off from their parents. This is why it is often necessary to find a balance between standing our ground about what is best for them and pushing them away.
The key to finding that balance is to pick your battles. If you don’t like your teen’s friend or girlfriend, take some time to figure out why. Giving your concerns a voice can help you see if your problems with this person are serious enough to take a stand or if they simply aren’t someone you would choose for your teen to spend time with. Here are some things you can do to help you determine if you need to take a stand or step aside.
1. See the Person Through Your Teenager’s Eyes
This can be a hard one but can also be very revealing. Understanding why your teenager is attracted to this person or what makes them want to spend time with them can help you see them in a different light. This may or may not change your overall opinion of them but it may help ease some of your concerns. At the very least is may give you a better understanding of your child.
2. Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt
Understand that this person is important to your child. Giving them the benefit of the doubt means treating them as you would anyone else in your child’s life that you liked until and unless there is a reason not to. Although this may mean that your teenager will be negatively impacted if your concerns become a reality, there are some lessons that are only learned through firsthand experience. Your teenager will be better able to handle those consequences if he or she feels like you are on their side and there for them.
3. Separate Yourself
Oftentimes, we as parents project our negative experiences and attitudes onto our teenagers. If we had a negative experience in high school, we may seek to shelter our teenagers from making the same mistakes that we did without realizing that this is a different time with different people. Make sure any concerns are based on the actual relationship your teenager has with this person and not a projection from your past.
Unfortunately, there will be times when you will have to put your foot down and take a stand because the risk to your child is too great to ignore. In these times, focusing on honest communication can help you take a stand without alienating your child.
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