5 Ways to Support Your Teenager While Giving Them “Space”
There’s nothing in the world that is more confusing than a teenager. You don’t know what they want, and they definitely don’t know what they want or need. Their brains are developing and growing. Their bodies are changing, and they are becoming socially aware of their flaws. As a parent, you want to continue loving your child, but these transformative years can be challenging for everyone in the family. Here are five ways to support your teenager while giving them space:
- Don’t Overstep Boundaries: Throughout adolescence, kids are defining who they are separate from you as a parent. Their brains are developing and becoming self aware. They are deciding what and who they will become, laying the foundation for the people they will be. It’s a big job, and it takes a lot of personal discovery. They are asking questions about what the world means, and testing to see if the information they’ve been taught is true. Let them have some freedom to explore and discover who they are. Give them time to be with friends, time in their own personal space, and the ability to respect their privacy. Of course, you are still the parent, and shouldn’t bend on set rules, but give them more freedom and responsibility to continue to grow as an individual.
- Be There For Them: Show them that you care by being present as much as possible. Go to their play, watch them play soccer, and be there at dinner time. They don’t want you to be in the middle of their life, but they do still expect you to intervene and protect them if they get stuck in a bad situation. Give them enough freedom to be able to make decisions on their own, but always close enough that you can step in if necessary. Even if they don’t say it, they want you to be involved in their life.
- Surround Them With Good People: Now that they are doing more things solo, make sure that the people that they have around them are quality people. When you can’t be there, you know that your child is still safe and in good hands. Encourage them to make good friends at school, ask trustworthy adults to keep an eye out, and foster relationships with other family members. Sometimes kids will reach out to certain person that they connect with when they have a specific question. That’s ok. They can connect with other people, too, but you want them to connect with people with a solid foundation.
- Be Available: Don’t only be there physically. Be there emotionally, too. If your teen reaches out to you with a tough question, and you respond by shutting down the conversation because it makes you uncomfortable, then you start building a wall between you. No matter what the subject matter is, approach their concern with an open mind and listen sincerely to their concerns. If you don’t know the answer, that’s ok. Help them find someone who does. This communication will bring healthy emotional relationships between you. They’ll feel more comfortable bringing more issues to you in the future knowing that you will meet them where they are at.
- Don’t Take It Personally: Don’t be offended that they are starting to pull away. It’s completely normal. Be glad that you raised a strong child who is now off to test the world.
Give them enough space to go out and explore the world in a safe environment. Once they become more solidified, they will come back to you. Have patience with them as they start to be introduced to the “real world”.