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FCSS tips to help parents or caregivers build relationships with teens

Posted on June 10, 2020 by Taber Times

Submitted By FCSS

Go back into any century, in any culture, and you will see one consistency – raising teenagers is challenging and rewarding, all at the same time, noted Amanda Lawrence, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) youth services co-ordinator.

“We strengthen these relationships by connecting with our teenagers in a deliberate, consistent, and frequent way. By approaching situations with patience and flexibility, we are opening the doors to help engage and empower adolescents to become the best versions of themselves,” Lawrence said.

If parents or caregivers can take a step back and look at raising teenagers from a different perspective, in the way we approach day-to-day challenges, life will become less frustrating and seem less chaotic, according to Lawrence.

“Recognizing that connecting with our kids, of any age, needs to be deliberate and often – that we are approaching situations with patience and we are being adaptable and flexible to the ever-changing needs that come with raising successful adults,” she added.

As parents or caregivers, Lawrence pointed out, raising children in this fluctuating environment has always been difficult.

Here are six tips to embrace, as parents or caregivers raise teens:

1. Communicate clearly: There is a lot going on for youth mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically. As the parent, we may need to be the keeper of the calm in a storm of possible chaos. Keep in mind our teens needing to be reminded multiple times to complete a task, is part of this stage of development. Several strategies to help with this would be to have the youth keep some type of to-do list, ensure they are focused when the instructions are given, or asking them to tell you/repeat back what the expectations are.

2. Show compassion: Life is full of choices and challenging moments. Recognizing our teens will be faced with challenging choices and there will be mistakes made, we are rewarding them a lifetime of growth. Being available to talk about the situation in an empathetic way, provides teens to grow from the experience and will help them foster a growth mindset.

3. Feelings are OK: Being aware of what experiences youth are faced with and how those experiences are making them feel, can go a long way in building a sense of safety and trust. Sometimes, teens may need help to name the feelings, appropriately express the feeling, or what to do after the feeling. Go with your instinct and/or take the lead from your teen. Remember, sometimes doing nothing but being present, is all they need.

4. Be a good role model: Several ways we can do this is by showing our teens what healthy relationships are, what the rewards are from making positive choices, and what being dependable looks like. As caregivers, leading by helpful example will support our teens to build a solid foundation when they are faced with adversity.

5. Maintain a routine (as often as possible): Routines are established in families for a variety of reasons. As our kids grow, we may feel like it is not as important to maintain a routine. However, teenagers need a sense of structure. Routines offer a sense of security, provide natural boundaries, and teach responsibility.

6. Lean on your support system: Support systems are the people in our lives who we know we can count on, when we need help. Both caregivers and teenagers need to have their own people, they can turn to when they are experiencing difficult times and/or need encouragement. Some examples of support systems include extended family members, coaches/group leaders, counsellors, teachers/school resource officers, close friends, neighbours, co-workers, and pets.

Despite working hard at incorporating these tips, Lawrence continued, there will still be times when the needs and demands of teenagers become overwhelming.

“Ensuring as a parent you are also taking care of yourself plays a large role in the day-to-day. We have all heard the saying ‘Put your oxygen mask on first’ when there is an emergency and raising teenagers is no exception. There are going to be times you feel unable to navigate a situation or times where you feel like you are giving your best. But, it does not feel like it’s working. These feelings are OK and are a perfectly natural piece of raising kids,” Lawrence said.

Not only are these six tips useful for building a relationship with teenagers, Lawrence said.

“Each of them could be utilized for ourselves, as part of our self-care plan.”

Lawrence said while having more opportunities to see our teens, please remember very little positive responses come from us nagging them.

“Can your teen remember to take out the garbage on Mondays? Of course they can. Will they do it every time? Of course they won’t. In situations like this, the responsibility of the parent or caregiver is to encourage and motivate to get things done.”

Some suggestions, Lawrence noted, could include making a game out of it, singing a song about it in a silly way, writing down reminder lists, rewards, and completing the task alongside of them.

“Please reach out to the youth services team at FCSS if you have any questions or are looking for further information on parenting teens in challenging times,” Lawrence said.

For more information or tips please visit fcss.ca.

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