Parenting tips for communicating, working with your teen

An autistic teenager hugs his mother prior to receive a dental treatment, on December 4, 2015 in Paris, at a dentist's member of a network of dentists treating handicapped patients. AFP / LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
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Being a parent or guardian is hard, especially as children develop into teens.

The National Runaway Safeline asked both youth and parents about the challenges of everyday life, and how to handle certain situations. Some helpful tips for everyday parenting can be found below. 

Remember: your relationship with your child is always more important than an issue.

Communication is key. As a parent, you should listen to your children before making a judgment or forming an opinion. Be sure that your kids know you’re willing to listen. Talk with them, no matter what the topic or concern. Make sure they know that nothing they do will stop you from loving them.

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Validate your teen’s point of view. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying or what their thought process is. Sometimes kids just want to know that you hear what they say

Collaborate on rules. If your teen helped create the rules, they may be more likely to follow them.

Teens will make mistakes. It’s part of the process of growing up, so let them know that you’ll be there when they stumble and fall. Let them know it’s okay to get angry and express it in a healthy way.

Treat your child as you would like to be treated.

Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Don't say you'll be glad when your child is 18 and can get out of your house or that they have to be out when they turn 18 because when teens hear that, they feel they can leave prior to 18 since they are only tolerated until then.
  • Pick your battles. Not everything matters. Let them have freedom with some things (like dying hair - it can be changed!), but not with the important stuff - dating, internet use, drugs, alcohol, drinking and driving, etc.
  • When it's time to talk with teens about a tough or sensitive topic, it is important to share some of your personal experiences, but not to overshare.
  • Don't' use shame. Avoid all comments or gestures that invoke looks of disapproval or comments like “how can you say that or think that?” You can disagree with a teen or any child but do not turn your disagreement into a message that says “you are shameful for having that thought or that opinion” which also translates into you are a bad person for thinking that way.
  • It is your job to teach your child how to live life as a responsible and self-sufficient adult. They should and will grow up and start living their life. You should support them in this transition.
  • Skip the lectures. Actions, not words, mean more to teenagers. If you say you’re going to take away video games (or the car keys) for a week, just do it – don’t keep talking about it.
  • Make eye contact. Your teen is more likely to feel like he’s being spoken to – rather than spoken at – if you are directly facing him.

For the full list of basic parenting and communication tips, click here.

More resources on how to form and maintain a healthy relationship with your child can be found here.