By Kim Norton
Adolescence is characterised as the transition from childhood to adulthood, a time of rapid growth and development. A time where healthy brain development depends on our teens taking age appropriate risks, trying new activities, making mistakes (and learning from them), developing an identity of self and of the world around them and on our guidance and support.
Letting go can be hard for us (where did that little girl go?) but our teens are relying on us for this guidance. To guide and support them through this time of change that can be confusing and stressful for some whilst others will seem to breeze through it without a care in the world. This of course will put more stress on our teens who are struggling to balance the hormonal shifts, body changes, mood swings, peer pressures, school and family expectations and issues around sex and social media that can occur during this time. (Facebook and Instagram were not around in our day).
Our teens still need all the love and support that we have always given them (even when they pretend, they don’t); we just need to adapt our parenting style and to navigate this transitional stage with them.
So, as the parent, what can you do?
Listen to what your teen has to say in full, without interruption, or voicing judgement (this includes body language).
Keep the lines of communication open
Don’t minimise what they are saying. Let them know they can come to you with anything they have to say without fear of reprisal. Organise a weekly family dinner and regular outings to stay connected allowing them the time and space to talk.
Loosen the Reigns
Let them take age appropriate risks and to make mistakes whilst they are still living with you. Help them to learn how to bounce back (develop resilience) by giving them the management strategies and the room to do so.
Choices and responsibilities
Set clear and precise boundaries with realistic expectations and stick to them. Predictability and routine are what they need from you.
What can they do for themselves?
(Make sure your teen reads this section: some great tips here for study and exam time also)
Get it out of your head and put it on paper. Keep a journal beside your bed so you can empty those pesky thoughts into your journal before sleep.
Develop a good bedtime routine
Limit the use of electronic equipment before bed and make sure you get enough sleep. Keep phones and other electronic devices out of the bedroom but if that proves too difficult, then at least turn off all notifications so you are not awoken by all the “bleeps”, “streaks” and “flashes”.
Practise gratitude and concentrate on the positive
When you are in a “funk” there is usually on overwhelming urge to escape or to avoid your responsibilities. Try to think of at least one positive in your life right now and concentrate on that. Affirm how you want to feel rather than how you are feeling right now.
Follow a healthy diet and exercise
Watch the carbs, coffee and alcohol intake and get onto a good multivitamin from a health food shop (not the lolly variety from the supermarket). Incorporate exercise into your daily schedule even if it is only a 10min yoga video or that short walk to school.
Keep organised and plan ahead (use visuals)
Colour code your school and study timetables. Schedule all activities in advance making sure to include some time for social activities and exercise.
Listen to your parents. They are not the enemy and they really do have your best interests at heart but just like you, they might not always show it in the best possible way. They too are learning to navigate this time of change so share your needs and feelings with your parents and remember that they are human, they make mistakes and they have feelings too.
Adolescence can be a chaotic time but, it is a time of growth for them and for us, and one that can be managed successfully with a little love, patience, empathy and planning on both sides.
Kim is the founder of Rainbow Light Therapies and is a Holistic Counsellor specialising in stress and anxiety management for kids, teens and adults. Kim provides a unique, intuitive and individualised therapy approach through individual, small group and family counselling sessions at her studio in Langwarrin. Also working with special needs kids, Kim is an NDIS registered provider and runs workshops for people of all abilities on various topics throughout the year.
Please see www.rainbowlighttherapies.com.au for more information.