The farther behind your own teenage years are, the harder it is to understand the emotions and behavior of your teenager.
Sometimes it may even feel like they are speaking another language or live life in a completely alternate reality. Understanding your teen is important if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with them and continue being a positive influence in their life. In fact, you could save their life. According to Mental Health America, 5,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide every year due to depression that was unrecognized and untreated. All it takes could be these six simple steps to better understand your teen.
1. Ask questions
Often, parents wait for their teen to bring things up instead of asking questions in an effort to not feel like they are prying. However, just like adults, teenagers like being asked questions that show you are interested in their lives. Remembering who their friends are, asking how they are doing in the class they are struggling with, and asking questions about things they are interested in will show that you listen to them and care about what’s important to them.
Along the lines of asking questions, listen to their answers. It’s not only important what they say but how they say it. Listening carefully to how they talk and what they say will reveal how your teenager thinks and what is important to them. Being aware of these things will help alert you to when something is not right.
3. Be involved
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying can often cause more emotional harm than physical, which is often harder to spot. The more you are involved in your teen’s life and after-school activities, the more likely you are to know if anything is going on that shouldn’t be.
4. Don’t assume the worst
Many parents make the mistake of assuming the worst when their teen is hiding something or isn’t where they say they would be. Give your teenager the benefit of the doubt. If they are hiding something on their computer, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking at things they shouldn’t, they may just be embarrassed about a question they had. If they are not where they said they’d be, maybe they had car trouble or a friend had an emergency. It’s okay to ask questions, but don’t be too quick to attack them and assume the worst.
5. Respect them and their privacy
With more responsibility, there comes more trust. You have raised your teen to be the person they are and it takes trust to step back and let them be that person. Respect private spaces, like their room, and try to avoid snooping as much as possible. If you have reason to believe your teen is in danger of violence or self-harm, do what you need to protect them, but in general learn to give your teenager their own space. The more you show you trust them, the more trust they’ll have for you and the more likely they will be to open up to you.
6. Don’t ignore danger signs
According to the CDC, there are plenty of signs and factors related to suicide, teen violence, and sexual violence that you can spot without invading your teen’s privacy. Look for signs of depression, aggression, behavioral problems, problems at school, and anxiety to indicate something is wrong. Above all, your teen’s safety is the most important thing and no one is exempt from these risks.
- 10 Things to Reconsider That You Say to Your Adolescents (doorwaysarizona.com)
- Raising Thankful Teenagers (doorwaysarizona.com)
- 10 Parenting Tips for Raising a Healthy Teen (doorwaysarizona.com)