As a parent, you watch your child evolve into a teenager who is beginning to form their own identity. Many parents approach the teenage years with trepidation. Not only do teenagers have raging hormones and rapid brain development, but they also have increased access to independence, friends, technology and cars. During this period of growth, you may wonder how to prepare your teen for adulthood, especially with the new challenges and expectations teenagers face that differ from your own generation.
Technology has made an impact on the way teens do just about everything, from communicating and socializing to homework and job applications. Many teens spend hours on their phones scrolling through social media and comparing themselves to filtered lives. And they are exposed to things that past generations might not have witnessed until older ages (or not at all)! Despite the generational differences, parents have a lot to offer their developing adolescents. You can help them gain self-confidence, learn from their experiences and comfort them when the learning hurts — because it will.
Parents often learn overtime that there is not one correct way to support your teenager because every child has their individual needs and resources. Although you have had several years to hone your skills in diverse parenting approaches, you may be questioning yourself and turn to other parents, confidantes or online resources in an attempt to do the best you can for your teenager.
Below are a few priorities to consider when helping your teenager prepare for adulthood.
Build Your Teenager’s Frustration Tolerance
It can be easy to be frustrated at the world when you grow up and realize some hard truths about life. Arguing with a friend, working on a school project with an unhelpful partner, a lost opportunity at an athletic event and new romance can all cause major stress to a teenager who is still learning about emotions, increasing their self-awareness and managing strong reactions.
First, listen to their frustrations and let them know their feelings are valid. Validation can help your adolescent feel understood and accepted which helps them transition to a calmer mindset. One way to gain back control of their emotions is to set realistic expectations. Here are a few situations where your teenager may need a reminder to be realistic about their goals in school, sports or relationships:
- They received a bad grade on a test that they expected to be easy.
- While playing on a team sport, their teammate made mistakes that lead them to lose the game.
- Their friends had to cancel or change plans at the last minute.
In the situations above, it is okay for your teen to feel disappointed; remind them that we can only control our own actions, thoughts and words. The better sense of control they have of themselves, the better your teen can manage frustrating situations and let go of any debilitating thoughts or emotions. The ability to normalize emotions as a natural part of life and manage emotions as they come are important skills for young adults to learn.
Develop Their Decision-Making & Problem-Solving Skills
From deciding what to eat for three meals a day to choosing a career path, teenagers can be overwhelmed with decisions. By empowering them to make age-appropriate decisions as younger children, they will be more confident and more comfortable with the many options before them as a teen.
Although it may seem easier to just tell your adolescent the ‘right’ choice to make, sometimes the best way to teach them is to step back and allow them to experience natural consequences. Moments when saying less may have a greater impact include:
- Allowing them to set their own bedtime and risk being too tired at school the next day.
- Allowing them to spend their money as they please and risk not having enough money to do something fun with their friends.
- Allowing them to choose not to finish their homework and risk a bad grade.
If your teenager later regrets a decision they made, be there for them and assure your teen that they can fix most problems as long as they are willing to reach out for help and can learn from their mistakes. Failure is often an important opportunity to learn from our regrets.
Hold Them Accountable from a Place of Compassion
Witnessing your child’s pain and suffering is a tough assignment for a parent, yet it is critical that they learn to forgive themselves when they make mistakes and critical that their mistakes don’t become debilitating shame. We all make errs in judgment from time to time. As adolescents, learning to think beyond the current moment often causes uncomfortable consequences. You can guide your teen through the three important steps below to help them learn from their mistakes for the sake of themselves as well as those around them:
- Take responsibility for their behavior or actions and admit to making a mistake.
- Make amends with whomever was affected negatively affected by their behavior or actions (even themselves). Give earnest apologies.
- Set intentions to learn from the mistake, forgive themselves and avoid repeating it.
A parent who can respond from a place of compassion and understand that the youth is still learning makes it possible for the teen to still turn to their parent for help. Keeping the communication open during the teen years can be a life-saving tool.
Teach Your Teen the Responsibilities of Adulthood
Teenagers may hear “responsibility” and think “chores.” You can overcome their intimidating or burdensome view of responsibilities by offering “opportunities” to become more independent. These opportunities could include:
- Scheduling their own doctor’s appointment.
- Packing their own lunch.
- Setting an alarm for school.
- Keeping track of their sport’s schedule.
- Washing dishes before they pile up in the sink.
- Attending meetings for an after-school club.
- Creating a budget for an activity or a specific time period.
Sometimes, it is easier to let your child know the importance of learning while living at home with the benefit of a safety net rather than asking them to “be responsible.” Think about how to convey this important message to your child in a way that it can be heard.
Therapy Can Help Your Teen Navigate Adulthood
As your teenager moves into the next stage of independence, the changes and responsibilities can be challenging to the adolescent as well as the parent. Although stress is a natural emotion, a teenager’s display of extreme stress, intense emotions or impulsive behaviors could be symptoms of a more serious mental health condition.
If your teenager is experiencing self-harm, suicide ideation, lack of motivation, abnormal sleeping patterns, canceling and avoiding plans or constantly feeling exhausted they may be living with depression or anxiety. Sparlin Mental Health in St. Louis is equipped with proven treatments and compassionate therapists who can help. We teach young adults the skills to identify and manage intense emotions. Contact our office to learn more about the benefits of mental health services for your teenager.