11. Plan ahead for difficult conversations
When you need to have a difficult conversation, it’s a good idea to think ahead about what you’ll say and how your child might feel. This can help you head off conflict.
Arranging a time and place where you can have some privacy also helps. For example, ‘Izzy, I’d like to make a time to talk with you about some things that are happening around the house. We can talk about it over pizza on Saturday night. OK?’
12. Keep ‘topping up’ your relationship
It might help to think of your relationship with your child as a sort of bank account. Spending time together, having fun and giving help and support are ‘deposits’, but arguments, blaming and criticism are ‘withdrawals’. The trick is to keep the account balanced – or even in the black.
13. Share your feelings
Telling your child honestly how his behaviour affects you can help your relationship. ‘I’ statements can be a big help here. For example, saying ‘I really worry when you don’t come home on time’ will probably get a better response than ‘You know you’re supposed to ring me after school!’
14. Learn to live with mistakes
Everybody makes mistakes, and nobody’s perfect. It’s all about how you deal with mistakes – both your own and your child’s – when they happen. Taking responsibility for mistakes is a good first step, and then working out what you can do to make things better might be your next move.
Saying sorry to your child when you make a mistake helps to keep your relationship going well.
15. Look for ways to stay connected
You can stay connected with your child by spending special and enjoyable time together.
The great thing is that sometimes the best moments are casual and unplanned, such as when your child decides to tell you about her day at school over the washing up. When these moments happen, try to stop what you’re doing and give your child your full attention. This sends the message, ‘You’re important to me and I love you’.
16. Respect your child’s need for privacy
Teenagers crave some privacy and a space of their own.
Asking for your child’s permission to enter his room, and not going through his diary or belongings, are ways to show this respect. Another way might be to think about what you really need to know, and what can be left as private between your child and his friends.
17. Encourage a sense of belonging
Family rituals can give your child a sense of stability and belonging at a time when lots of other things around her – and inside her – might be changing. Some families might choose to have Friday family pizza nights, pancakes for breakfast on Sundays, or particular traditions for celebrating birthdays.
18. Keep promises
When you follow through on promises, good or bad, your child learns to trust and respect you. Be clear and consistent.
19. Have realistic expectations
Teenagers will be teenagers. Just as you might do, your child will probably slip up and break the rules sometimes. Teenagers and their brains are still under construction – they’re still working out who they are. Testing boundaries is all part of the process, so it helps to be realistic about your child’s behaviour.
20. Look for the funny side of things
Laughing or making jokes can help diffuse tension and possible conflict, and stop you and your child taking things too personally. You can also sometimes use a joke or a laugh to kick off a difficult conversation.
Our Talking to Teens interactive guide
explores some tricky parent and teenager situations, such as disrespectful teenage behaviour, sibling fighting and rule-breaking. You can use the guide to see how different approaches to these situations can get different results.