Staying connected with your teen

The teenage years are really important, as important as any other ‘childhood’ age and stage. And just like any other age and stage they can be exciting, challenging and a lot of fun.

298 Youth Health does a fantastic job providing free medical care and and counselling services for young people in Canterbury. Dr Sue Bagshaw is on the 298 Youth Health Board and has provided the following advice to All Right? on what parents can do to help their relationship with their teenager:

  • Be there and be involved - According to the most recent National Youth Survey 50% of young people want to spend more time with their parents. Show an interest in what your teenager is into - if they play sport watch them play; ask questions about their interests and support them in these. Respect their chosen activities.
  • Know that as a parent ‘good enough’ is GREAT!
  • Learn to negotiate with teens - Read up about negotiating (just like you would with your boss!) - listen, learn to give and take, and be willing to compromise. Remember that teenagers will learn from your approach to negotiation. When things aren’t quite as you’d like, ask your teenager to convince you - let them come up with an argument that makes it really difficult to say ‘no’ to. If these are non-negotiable for family/whanau, ensure your teen knows this and why these things are important for your family/whanau.
  • Be a guide and a mentor - This is definitely parenting, but it isn’t ‘teaching’. Understand your teen’s strengths and encourage these.
  • Teens learn from what you do, not from what you tell them -Teens are learning how to be an adult – it’s their next stage. You’re their greatest role-model.
  • Try to see things from your teen’s perspective - Be empathetic and respectful. Teens get a bad rap – try not to buy into this.
  • Listen before you react!
  • Time it right - The best places to ‘talk’ to your teens are in the car, doing the dishes - when you’re together, but the conversation isn’t forced the sole focus.

For further reading on the teenage brain and its development Dr Sue Bagshaw recommends:

  • The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt
  • Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel