When parents first welcome their little bundle of joy into the world, they never imagine he or she will grow up to be a moody, broody, swearing-under-the-breath teenager. This adorable little baby? This toddler who sticks to you like Velcro? This adorable mini-me who needs your help reaching the sink or tying their shoes? No way! But, inevitably, every parent finds out that yes, it does happen. It won’t last forever, but the teen years can be so grueling that they feel like they move slower than others.
The teen years are so fragile because they absolutely fall under the category of formative years when every experience the kid has can shape them forever. But, they also come with new freedoms. So, while when kids were in their younger formative years, you could at least control their experiences, once they become teens, you lose some of that control. Kids get drivers’ licenses. And smartphones. They get later curfews. They have older friends who can buy cigarettes or alcohol. They aren’t under your watch, or any adults’ watch, all of the time, the way they were when they were little. And this is why communication, and fortifying your relationship with your teen, is so important. It’s your way of being in their minds, even when you can’t physically be there. We spoke with Demetrius Cofield, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor who works with Black Clinician Newtwork, about how parents can improve relationships and communications with their teens.
Give measured freedom
“Parents should remember the importance of autonomy and social interaction to teens,” advises Cofield. “They have that need for more independence which will drive them to do things to get it that might not be okay. This is the time to start allowing them to have more freedom but also be mindful of what they are doing with that freedom.”