The National Parenting Center

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Help! Why aren’t my teenager and I getting along?

One of the most difficult times we face as parents is when our children enter their teen years. There are many reasons why our children seem quiet, rebellious or changed and sometimes understanding what it is they are going through helps us to deal with it. In the middle teen years, teens often make broad generalizations based on their somewhat limited information and experiences. They are, in a way, trying on ideas to see how they fit. This can be irritating to parents, but it is necessary for the teen’s growth.

During these years, they often “test” the belief systems of adults, especially their parents, and they like to engage in debates about concepts and values. These “arguments” are a way to hold up and examine their own growing values and beliefs, and compare them to what they have believed in the past.

Experts tell us that if the bonds of communication between parents and children are strong, and if teens feel “connected” to their family, that teens will usually grow into young adults with values very much like those of their parents. (You may doubt this right now, but have faith.)

The most important thing you can do is talk less, and listen more. Make sure she knows you are accessible for conversation, no matter what the hour. Listen objectively and with some detachment, as you would if this child were a visiting exchange student. Use questions sparingly, try not to be defensive, and never overreact. State clearly how you feel about important issues such as sex and drugs without repeating it ad infinitum. When you have debates, agree to disagree and see discussions as learning experiences.

Keep showing that you love and support your teen, even when it seems that she is rejecting you or responding with indifference. This is a time of letting go of the child she used to be and accepting and guiding a new young person on the path to adulthood. It will probably get harder before it gets easier, but take heart and hang in there.

You may be interested in my 18 panel brochure on communication with teens and adolescents. Based on “real life” and 14 years of columns, it includes communication on such topics as guidance, sex education, risk taking, boredom, loners, suicide, and values. If so, send a $3 check made out to “Tips on Communication,” and mail it with a self addressed, stamped business envelope, to TIPS, 50 Ashley Creek Drive, Newnan, GA 30263

Evelyn Petersen’s nationally syndicated parenting column is carried in over 200 newspapers twice each week. As a family/parenting consultant, early childhood educator, Head Start consultant, and host of a series of parent training audio and video tapes, Ms. Petersen employs an approach of providing hands-on, nuts and bolts advice to parents across the country.Evelyn Petersen’s nationally syndicated parenting column is carried in over 200 newspapers twice each week. As a family/parenting consultant, early childhood educator, Head Start consultant, and host of a series of parent training audio and video tapes, Ms. Petersen employs an approach of providing hands-on, nuts and bolts advice to parents across the country. You can read more from Evelyn at her web site: www.askevelyn.com

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