Parenting the teenage brain: How to manage conflict

Parenting the teenage brain: How to manage conflict
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In part one we saw how changes in the teenage brain are directing young people through a period of separation and independence from their parents that can involve a lot of emotional turmoil. In part two we’ll look at some principles that can help parents to maintain their relationship with their developing child, manage conflict, stay involved and play an active part in supporting them through this challenging time.

There’s no magic wand, it can be hard work, and it’s very much trial and error, but these principles can help you to guide things in the right direction.

1) Relationship and connection are everything

Developing and maintaining a close connection with your teenager can be challenging when the messages generally seem to be, “go away and leave me alone” and “I’m off out with my friends”. However, what this really means is that the ground rules for your relationship are changing, because your teen is changing. Teenagers no longer want to do the same things or relate in the same ways as they did when they were younger. What complicates things just a bit is that, although their brain is wiring itself up to encourage them to relate differently and move away from home, this is a fragile and vulnerable time when they will need you more than ever. For parents, this can feel confusing and seem a bit like having to get to know their child again from scratch.

What this means in practice is that you may need to be more flexible, creative and opportunistic about building your connection. For example, following their lead and picking the right time – maybe meal times, chatting about a film you’ve just watched, or on one of those endless taxi runs. Perhaps having a shared project like cooking a meal. Don’t understand computer games/dubstep/football/the latest fashion? Forget your opinions, show an interest. Be curious about their world and what matters to them. Be prepared to stop what you’re doing and seize the moment – teenagers are constantly sending out little signals – often in a mixed code of mumbling and hanging around, but they’re there to be deciphered. Finally, oil the wheels of goodwill by dropping in little compliments for a job well done, or an effort well made, or just tell them that you love them.

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