By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Having a teenager is one of the most challenging times in a parent’s marriage — as well as their life. It is scary, frustrating, and chaotic. It is a time of letting go, enforcing rules, strengthening boundaries and also nurturing. Teens may appear to be fighting against us at times by rebelling against our rules, pointing out our inadequacies, and telling us how “out of it” we are.
However, they also still love and need us. They need their mom and dad to stay strong and enforcze the rules and structure that help make them feel secure. There are certain things teenagers really need to hear from their parents. You cannot say these things when they would be most apropos. However, you can say them at night when the child is relaxed and going to sleep. They offer less resistance at night just before bedtime. They will remember what you said, and reflect on it when you least expect it.
1. No one will ever love you in the same way or have your best interests at heart more than your mom/dad and I will.
2. You have so many gifts and options; I will help you capitalize/benefit from them as best I can.
3. How can I help you reach your dreams?
4. No matter what you confide in me, I will always love you and do what is best for you.
5. My job is not to be your buddy. I am your parent and will love and mentor you.
6. I am sorry. (Say this whenever you hurt your child, or your child is in pain from something someone else said to them.)
7. I embrace your friends, but I love you the most.
8. It is okay to mess up; I do it all the time.
9. I am sorry you don’t like my rules, but you will have to abide by them. I will hold you accountable if you break them and there will be a consequence.
10. If you are in trouble, call me first, no matter where you are. I may be angry, but my first concern will always be your safety. We will talk about punishment or consequences later.
11. You are an integral part of this family, and the family needs you to run smoothly.
12. I don’t care what your friends get to do. I am not their parent; I am yours and you are my main responsibility and concern.
13. I admire you more than you can ever understand or know.
14. If you get in trouble at school, be honest with me. Your teacher is the authority at school and if I hear it from your teacher before I hear it from you, I will feel betrayed or deceived. I may react to this breach of trust.
15. From the first time I saw your eyes, I vowed to be the best parent I could be for you. I make mistakes but they are not meant to hurt you. I make them because I love you so much and get scared sometimes. It is hard parenting a teen (your child will understand this confession).
The number of years your child is a teen are relatively short, but no time in your child’s life can influence the relationship they have with you into adulthood as much as their teen years. Hold strong boundaries, talk with them, listen to them, and tell them frequently with a hug how much you love them. They will make it through — and so will you!