Tweenagers and Teenagers—The Personal Side
Body hair, acne, body odor, big feelings and an endless appetite. These are the first words I think of when I recall my teen years. The other thing I remember most about my tween and teen years is how monumental everything felt. Meaning, if I got a bad grade I felt like the world was ending. Or, if a boy did not like me I believed I would never find another boy I liked as well. It is easy for me now to look back and know that my big feelings were not reality, but when I was in it I could not see the forest for the trees.
I want to offer some practical advice for being in a relationship with a tween or teen. This advice is written with parents in mind; however, many of the tips are helpful if you spend any time with this age group at all—for example, as a teacher, volunteer worker, neighbor, mentor, extended family member, etc.
1) Changing bodies and changing hormones: During adolescence, not only are bodies changing, but feelings are too based on hormonal changes. Situations and experiences can feel bigger than they are due to shifting hormones. Be kind and remember that tweens and teens are not always trying to be dramatic. Their bodies and hormones are changing and they often feel out of control.
2) Ask, don’t (always) tell: When children are little we constantly tell them what to do as we should because they are learning. As they grow older, we give them choices, but continue to be more authoritarian in our parenting. Once kids become tweens and teens it is time once again for us to relinquish a little more control over their lives. They are practicing to become adults and if we don’t gradually increase their level of freedom in making choices and let them try AND fail they will never learn how to do life. So…ask lots of questions and don’t always be quick to give advice. In your mind, pretend to be a detective so you come off as interested and not overpowering. Now, this does not mean that children make the rules in the house, it simply means that you give them as much freedom as you believe they can handle at any age. And don’t panic if they fail. Better for them to fail in small ways while at home than in bigger ways when they leave you.
3) Know their love language and speak it: Do they feel loved by spending time with you, acts of service you do for them (organizing their book bag, etc.), physical affection, gifts or words of affirmation? However your kids feel loved be intentional in loving them in that way.
4) Peer power: Peers take center stage at this stage in development and that is okay. This means you will have to be intentional about spending time with your teen. Schedule a weekly frozen yogurt date, take them to dinner, play video games with them, etc. Try to be non-judgmental about their friends (as long as their friends are safe) and ask questions about who they hang out with and why.
5) Engage in self-care: Take time to take care of yourself. Parenting this age group is challenging simply because their feelings are often big and can run wild. However, if you are mindful about the tips listed above you can still enjoy your growing tween and actually look forward to spending time with them. After all, there is something fun about being able to watch the same shows and movies and listen to the same kind of music, right?
If you are a parent and feel you are struggling to connect with your child, a seasoned Orlando Therapist can help you. Our counselors also provide therapy for children and teens, as well as family therapy. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 today to schedule an appointment.