The teenage years are fraught with all kinds of problems, from low self-esteem and peer pressure to lack of motivation and chronic untidiness, but you can help your child through all of them.
One of the biggest worries for adolescents is their appearance. Changing body shape, hair in unlikely places, spots breaking out - no wonder teenagers spend so much time looking in the mirror.
If your teen isn't happy with what he sees - and few are - it can dent his self-esteem.
Try to avoid making jokes about your teen's appearance - even if it's meant in a light-hearted way. It's also a mistake to make light of something that worries a teenager, even though it may seem silly to you. He may be convinced that plastic surgery is the only solution for his nose, even though it looks absolutely fine to everyone else.
Try to explain that other people rarely notice the kind of detail we notice in ourselves.
The better teenagers feel about themselves, the higher their self-esteem and ability to cope with these temporary problems.
Some teenagers take failure - whether in sport, exams or relationships - in their stride and get over it relatively quickly, but for others it can seem like a major crisis. If your child reacts badly then you need to help him deal with his emotions before you help him deal with failure effectively.
Your need to reassure him that your love and support is not contingent on exam grades. If your teen doesn't get the grades expected, help him to keep it in perspective - everyone has some setbacks in life. He can always do resits. Reassure him that you're behind him 100 per cent, and help him to review all the options.
Dealing with emotions
Some teenagers - boys in particular - have a less developed range of emotional expression to call on. Embarrassment, irritation and disappointment are difficult emotions to react to and anger is the way some teenagers express themselves.
If your teenagers is having difficulty identifying and articulating what he's feeling, asking "are you a bit upset?" may help you both to identify the type and extent of his feelings, and to find appropriate responses.
Some young people find vigorous activity, such as sport, helps them deal with their emotions. Others may just want space to chew over events, situations and disappointments.
Untidiness is one of the most common battlegrounds between parents and teenagers. If you're driven mad by the coat on the hall floor or the wet towels dumped in the bath, you're not alone. Remind yourself:
- He's not doing it to annoy you, it's a reflection of the fact his thoughts are elsewhere most of the time
- A teen's bedroom is his own private space and you should respect that - even the most untidy teenager gets sick of squalor and will probably decide to tidy up at some point
How to help your teenager
- Explain all teenagers worry about how they look and few - if any - are completely satisfied
- Continue to give compliments about your teenager's appearance and behaviour
- Never show up your teenager in front of his friends with remarks such as "I told you to tidy that room" or "Surely you're not wearing that?"
- Make it clear you're interested in hearing about school, friends or hobbies - if you don't, you can't complain when he doesn't tell you anything
- Do all you can to keep communication open - respect your child's ideas and show that feelings can be expressed without them leading to arguments
Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens
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