a teen and parent sitting on a couch thinking about how to survive the teenage years

Surviving the Teenage Years: A Parent’s Guide

As a parent, do you find yourself constantly frustrated when you and your teen just don’t see eye to eye? Do simple requests like helping out around the house or cleaning their room seem like major battles?

Or, maybe, you wish your teen would express themselves to you more. You want the absolute best for them but are left to wonder about their true feelings, thoughts, and goals. 

At Awakened Path, we specialize in supporting teens and families like yours. This season of life can be tumultuous, but we’re here to help. Continue reading as we give you some insight into your teen’s thoughts, feelings, and tips for supporting them. Here is your guide to surviving the teenage years from our team of therapists in NJ.

What is my teen thinking?

To begin to understand and empathize with what your teen is experiencing, imagine what it’s like in their shoes. Most teens are navigating peer relationships, independence, identity, and physical changes within their bodies. Teens are trying to understand themselves, who they are, and how they fit into society. It is likely that they are comparing themselves with their peers in person and on social media and trying to fit in. Their likes, dislikes, hobbies, interests, and personalities may change frequently as they work towards figuring themselves out and surround themselves with different groups of friends. Many teens feel a responsibility to “find themselves,” by trying new things and testing boundaries. Their desire for independence takes hold and can look like challenging authority figures. While this is a typical stage of development in the teenage years, it can cause distress and consume a lot of their energy.  

What is my teen feeling?

Teens often feel misunderstood by others amid juggling social, societal, and familial demands. While their social demands may take precedence on their priority list, society and caregivers offer reminders of their additional expectations. Some of these expectations may include academic achievement, family time, extracurricular activities, preparing for college or a career, and chores. With all of this new pressure from so many different directions, teens often feel stressed and confused about the level of effort to apply to each expectation. As they do their best to balance, it is not without conflict. Conflict with themselves. Conflict with others. And conflict with their caregivers. These conflicts are major stressors for teens.

Why doesn’t my teen just communicate with me?

Our teens are feeling stressed and have difficulties finding the language to communicate it. So how we do understand or help if they don’t communicate with us?

The key is recognizing that everything our teens do is a way of communicating their needs in how they know best. This does not mean it is always what’s best for them or for the caregiver-teen relationship. It is simply their current reality and perception. Some of the ways in which they may communicate their needs include: shutting down in conversations, isolating themselves, becoming easily irritated, sudden changes in their friend/social groups, a decline in academics or participation in hobbies and interests, and lack of regard for concrete household rules. These changes are indicators that they need support.

Maybe your teen is excelling at establishing their independence right now and it is really challenging to see any signs or symptoms of distress, but they still won’t communicate with you. If you find you are concerned about your teen or need additional support in surviving the teenage years, reach out to Awakened Path for parental therapy. You are not alone and we are here to help you navigate the challenges that are inevitable in this season of parenting.

Here are some tools that our therapists have found useful in trying to communicate with teens successfully:

1. Validate their experience.

Teens want to feel heard, seen, validated, and accepted. Many teens shut down when they are told things such as “Don’t worry about what others think,” or “Be yourself.” They deeply care about what others think and much of their stress involves understanding what it means to fit in with others. While we often say these things with good intentions, it doesn’t support their current reality. 

Instead, ask your teen questions to understand how they feel. Tell them you might not fully understand their exact situation, you know that what they’re experiencing is difficult, confusing, and stressful. Express that you wish to support them, not judge them. Validate their feelings and then help them navigate through them. 

2. Help them identify their emotions.

When teens understand their emotions, they are better able to accept themselves, and they can communicate their needs more effectively. Teens are going to feel intense emotions just as we all do. Helping them connect with their emotions through physical sensations in their bodies can be helpful. For example, tightness in their throat or tension in their muscles may indicate signs that they are angry. Teaching them to recognize these signs can alleviate stress as they become aware of what is happening in their bodies and discover ways they can manage their emotions.  

3. Model for them.

Our children are an extension of us. They often learn to deal with conflict in the same way that we deal with it. This does not mean we need to be perfect, but we should try to remain mindful. Our trained therapists at Awakened Path can provide tools and strategies to help with mindful parenting.

Express yourself and your emotions when you are together as a family. Model what it looks like to feel stressed from work, acknowledge your stress, and manage it in a healthy way by talking it out, doing a deep breathing exercise, or practicing self-care.

4. Give yourself Credit.

Parenting comes with its unique sets of challenges. Remember that most of your concerns as a parent come from a place of wanting to protect your children. Recognizing that your teen is stressed and having the desire to help means you’re doing a great job. Give yourself credit for wanting to learn how to better support your teen and utilizing your available resources to do so. Our therapists at Awakened Path would love to be that resource for you.

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