Like most of us, you were probably hoping for a relaxed and enjoyable time over the summer  break.   

But, all too often, families don’t get to enjoy their summer truce. Instead,  long-simmering or half-hidden issues can boil to the surface, causing tension, trauma and all-round unhappiness. And high on the list of problems can be unacceptable teenage behaviour.

Maybe your kids are refusing to help around the house.  Perhaps they’re defiant and aggressive or, worse still, experimenting with drugs or alcohol or staying out all night. If your family faces issues like these, the chances are you  won’t have resolved them during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Instead, you might be starting the working year feeling even more drained and suffering from a sense of hopelessness, failure and gnawing anxiety over your child’s future. And the more you love your troublesome teen, the worse the strains will probably be.

So what can you do to make a fresh start in 2014?  Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Stay Connected to your teens.  Sometimes they need to be left alone, but not all the time. Be around them but not all-over them. Be available if they want to talk
  • If they want an instant answer, don’t be pressured. If  they persist you can say; “if you want an answer now, that answer’s NO – but if you give me time to think about it, the  answer might still be no but it could be yes!”
  • Never confront your teen when you’re worked up or angry. Calm down , leave  communication to when you and your teen are both in a relaxed mood
  • Remember that being a teen is difficult.  Maybe your kids may be concerned over not being in a cool group at school.  And they may have issues about their body and/or their appearance, which seem huge and immediate to them
  • Your teens may have very real worries about family dynamics or about their school work and prospects. And they might also be facing cyber-bullying or plain physical bullying of the old-fashioned sort.  Tell your kids you’re there for them, that you love them and that it’s your  job to protect them
  • Don’t forget to praise your kid.  This can be difficult when teens seem to be doing everything to tear themselves and their family apart.  But you can always find something to praise or encourage. It’s not easy but you can do it!
  • Learn to detach but not to disengage.  Some issues are more important than others and constant nagging and confrontation tend to be ineffective.  So, decide which issues you can let go of
  • Remember that teens need boundaries and consequences.  But make sure your boundaries and consequences are fair, reasonable and age-appropriate.  Be prepared to negotiate those boundaries with your teen,  as he or she become older and more independent
  • Never set consequences for teen behaviour, if you’re not prepared to go through with them
  • Remember that love is always a vital ingredient in bringing up teens
  • If problems persist, get in touch with TOUGHLOVE and come along to one of our Parent Support Groups.  We have thirty years experience of helping parents just like you!

Reconnecting with your teen isn’t always easy but it’s worth it and can make all the difference to your family.

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Geoff Andrews is CEO of TOUGHLOVE Auckland, part of a nationwide network which organises support groups for parents of teens. A former teacher with three adult children, Geoff believes that boundaries, consequences and consistency are vital to parenting teenagers. But he says that love is also an essential part of the mix.

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