October 1, 2015

Understanding Your Teen: Resources For Parents


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For the parents of my teenage clients, I think understanding their kid must feel like trying to read the Rosetta Stone without the knowledge of Greek, Demotic or Hieroglyphics, i.e. frustrating, mysterious and sometimes downright impossible.

I received a call from an upset parent recently. The call was similar in content to calls I have taken in the past from other parents. "Lindsey has done something and I don't know how to handle it. I just need to talk to somebody who knows my kid."  The tone in their voices is usually a mix of sadness, disappointment, and sometimes panic.

This call came from a parent who has always impressed me. In my interactions with her and her daughter, I have felt that she parented in a very balanced, wise and caring way. But even good parents go through moments when they have used all the tools at their disposal and they don't know what to do next. In those moments, it is helpful to be able to talk out your problem with a fellow parent, a therapist, or a friend.

There are also some good books, articles, and blogs that can help parents navigate parenting teens. One that I have found to be helpful is a blog called Understanding Teenagers. The author Chris Hudson gives practical advice.

Your teen is bound to mess up, to disobey, and to lie to you at some point. How do you handle that?

Chris points out, "Good discipline is educative and restorative rather than punitive. There should be consequences for betraying trust, but they need to be connected to and in proportion to the breach committed. "

When your teen does violate a boundary you have set with them, Chris mentions the following things which are helpful to consider:


  • Listen to what your teenager has to say before making any judgments 
  • Don’t respond out of anger or a desire to punish, take a few deep breaths and calm down before passing sentence 
  • Only make consequences that you can follow through with or they won’t work 
  • What might work for one young person might not work for another  
  • Set consequences that can be enacted quickly and provide your teenager a chance to try again, e.g. “You came home very late after we agreed on a time, so tomorrow I will pick you up” 

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there. Be patient with yourself as you parent. You are not going to get it right every time. Sometimes you will yell at your kids and then feel like a jerk. Welcome to parenthood. Surround yourself with others who have been there and can support you as you walk through this journey of parenting.

You may not be able to read the Rosetta Stone, but if you need help trying to read your teen or pre-teen, I recommend checking out some of the articles on the Understanding Teenagers Blog.  

Happy Parenting! You are doing important work.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at www.wilsoncounseling.org  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

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