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5 Important Ways to Show Your Teen You Care

 

What image comes to mind when you think of being a nurturing parent? Is it swaddling and soothing your sweet newborn when she’s fussy? Or bandaging your toddler’s scraped knee after he fell on the playground? Maybe it’s consoling your third grader after a tough day at school. We often think of nurturing younger children, but what about our teens? Teenagers still need, and want, to be nurtured by their parents, even if it sometimes feels like they want nothing to do with you.

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So how can you show your teen you care? Below are 5 practical tips to continue to nurture your relationship with your teen.

1. Show compassion and empathy- This one is always important, but in the teen years? It’s a game changer! Your child’s brain is changing now more than any other time in their life, except for when he was a newborn. You may feel like your teen is often unpredictable, and seems like a totally different person from moment to moment. It’s likely your teen is still figuring it all out too. When your teen complains about being tired, despite the fact that he just slept 8 hours, recognize that he has a lot on his plate and may very well be exhausted. It’s tempting to complain about how you were also up late because you were doing his laundry, but resist the urge! Instead, say, “I’m sorry you’re tired. You have a lot on your plate right now and I’m proud of you for handling it all so well!” This language may feel foreign to you now, but with practice you can master it.

2. Give teens opportunities to take risks- The logic center of your teen’s brain is still fully forming during this phase of their life. Because of this, teens are more likely to take risks and act impulsively. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to help channel that natural urge into an outlet that is safe and constructive. Allow them to take calculated risks, such as rock climbing, trying out for the school play, or learning a new skill. Who knows, you might also have some fun taking a risk alongside them!

3. Prepare them- As much as your teen may squirm awkwardly, it’s important to talk about puberty and sexual maturity before it happens. Why is this nurturing? Because it gives your teen an opportunity to have continuous open and honest conversations with you, and ensures they learn this information from a trustworthy source. At the end of the day, would you rather them learn about their bodies from you, or from the internet? It also gives you a chance to model respectful language, and shows them that you trust they will handle this information maturely and responsibly. Still dreading the big conversation? One way to help ease the awkwardness is to have the conversation in the car. Sitting side by side is often less intimidating than literally “facing” the conversation head on. And remember, its best to have an open-door policy to continue these conversations. One and done talks about such important topics don’t cut it.

4. Encourage new experiences- Encourage your teen to be involved in something outside your home. For some, this may be sports or drama club. Teens that are more introverted may prefer to do something more solitary, such as volunteer at the local animal shelter. Recognize your teen’s newfound level of maturity by allowing him to start a part time job. Bonus- this is a great time for you to help them practice money management skills! 

5. Provide down time- While it is important that teens have outside interests, it’s just as important that they have time to relax. With college applications becoming more competitive, many parents may feel the only way to help their child stand out is to encourage involvement in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. Or, your teen may have so many interests that she never has time to eat dinner with the family. It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an over-scheduled child (irritability, fatigue, uncompleted school work) and encourage your child to simplify. One way to do this is to sit down with your teen and create a planner of all her activities. Discuss which ones are necessary and which ones are excessive. Encourage your child to explore the pros and cons of each activity and let them come up with a plan of how they will reduce their load. While you’re at it, this is a great time to simplify your own calendar, and model healthy self-care for your teen!

Continuing to nurture your child through their teen years not only strengthens your relationship with them, it also helps to foster independence. When teens know they have a safe place to land, they feel more comfortable going out and exploring on their own. While it’s necessary to give them space and opportunity to grow as they get older, it’s essential that we continue to nurture them all the way through to adulthood.

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