Written by: Stéphanie Deslauriers
Adolescence is a period of self-discovery, when teens seek the answer to THE question: “Who am I?” This quest for identity slowly leads them to distance themselves from family and grow closer to their friends.
At this stage of life, the main priorities for adolescents are to be accepted by others and to fit in while asserting their individuality. It’s therefore normal for teens to spend more time with their friends; they might try a different look and develop new interests in general. They’re simply taking a step back from their family―their clan since birth―so they can better question and evaluate the values they’ve been taught since… forever.
As a parent, all these questions and clashing of opinions can be destabilizing. In this context, how does one manage to maintain or establish healthy communication with their teenager?
Your teen has a favourite YouTuber, who you feel is completely mind-numbing? I can relate. But for your teen, these role-models and idols are important, so you should try to appreciate them. Try watching a video with your teen or just look up the type of content this person creates to find at least one positive element you can share about them. Or why not share one of your own hobbies? Anything from music, art, reading, sports or photography… A common interest with your teen can open the door to spending more time together doing something fun, which can only benefit your relationship.
It’s crucial to be open minded; when your teen opens up, you need to be all ears and validate their emotions. Try and remember yourself as a teenager and how you felt when an adult sighed, rolled their eyes or dismissed your problems as “kid stuff.” It was annoying, right? Well, it still is to your teen today. Sure, it’s only “kid problems”, but that’s because your teen IS a kid! From a personal and professional point of view, I’d worry if a teenager were having adult problems.
Remember how vulnerable you felt back then; it will help you adjust your level of empathy, compassion and acceptance during discussions with your teen.
NO ONE likes getting advice they didn’t ask for: not a pregnant woman, not a new (or even seasoned) parent, and a teenager is no exception. Before speaking your mind, wait for your teen to ask a question or solicit your opinion on a subject that affects them personally. And when answering, remember to emphasize it’s your personal opinion (and not the absolute truth!)
Some subjects are very awkward and not all parents are comfortable talking about these with their teen, such as sexuality. That’s ok! You should respect yourself and your boundaries. But if you can’t answer these questions, redirect your teen towards a person who can and who you trust: a big sister, a mature cousin, an open-minded aunt, etc. This way, a least you ensure your teen gets accurate, quality information—and won’t look it up on questionable websites.
Overall, try to remember your teenage years. Be empathetic and compassionate towards your past self. It’ll help you feel the same towards the teenager standing in front of you today!