How has COVID-19 impacted your relationships with your teenage child or children? How has COVID-19 impacted your relationships with young people? Are there any tips you can share to encourage other parents or adults working with youth?
I have given plenty of thought to these questions in recent days, especially as I read how parents respond to the challenge of working from home and facilitating their child’s learning. Of course, the older the child, the more they should be able to study on their own. Is this true? Perhaps it is with many teenagers, though certainly not with all. I hope that the COVID-19 experience strengthens relationships between parents and their children, as well as reinforces the importance of the nuclear family in our communities, and that it also improves relationships between schools and parents. Our global community will be enriched. Perhaps these ten proven tips will help.
When parents work as a team, their relationships within the family are strengthened and there will be fewer conflicts. Children watch how their parents interact with one another, how they approach conflicts and challenging situations and learn from these observations. They need to see that disagreements are a normal part of life, yet there are healthy strategies that can be followed to resolve any challenging issues or conflicts. When parents are seen to be working as a collaborative team, their attitude can provide the key to the long-term health and the developments of positive relationships.
All children do not have the privilege of growing up in such a loving household, yet parents can still strive to develop a positive framework within which to encourage their children to reach their potential – this might include their child having a supportive mentor alongside them for a while. It is this positive framework we can remember when we consider these ten tips.
10 effective parenting tips
I have reflected on over forty years working with teenagers, which included raising two of my own with my wife, as well as years of researching adolescent behavior. These tips will succeed if we can follow them through and not beat ourselves up when we do not get it 100 percent right every day. All these tips and ideas are built on the foundation stone of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The key word there is unconditional, for, when our teenagers make the inevitable mistakes, and we can assure them of our unconditional love for them at all times, we enjoy respectful and caring relationships.
- PATIENCE – as teenagers journey through adolescence to become young adults, they make mistakes, annoy us, have their typical mood swings, are surly or irritable, and then for some unknown reason appear to be overwhelmingly happy! We require patience to hang in there through these confusing times. Remember that the storm always passes and the sun always rises again. Sometimes they will test us. We can be firm, fair, and consistent at all times in our responses to different behaviors.
- AFFIRMING – put another way, look to ‘catch them doing good’ and affirm them, most especially their efforts. As long as we are sincere and genuine, that smile, pat on the back, quick hug or short phrase of encouragement that lets them know they have done well and we are proud of them, could be a life-changing moment. We must not label our children. I have heard many parents over the years label their children as ‘idiots’, ‘wasters’, ‘losers’, ‘lazy good-for-nothings’ – no wonder they might have to deal with some behavior issues. Teenagers are vulnerable, sensitive, self-conscious, and often uncertain of the path ahead. I remember telling my daughter when she was about twelve, as she completed a school project, that she was wonderfully creative. She is now in her mid-thirties and reminds me of that conversation on occasions. A positive, affirming comment was grabbed, processed, and inspired her to try all sorts of different activities over the years such as making photo frames, designing birthday, Christmas and other cards, and experimenting with technology to encourage others in her teaching role.
- ROLE-MODEL – we have to walk the talk to the best of our ability. Children always look to their parents before anyone else when they make decisions about life and possible career options. When we actively live out the values and morals we want our teenagers to admire and live by, we are effective parents. Our actions – even more than our words – significantly impact the moral and ethical standards our teenagers choose to follow.
- EMPATHY – teenagers want us to show that we can understand how they feel. We would be liars if we said, “I know exactly what you are going through,” but not if we said, “I think I have some understanding of what you are going through.” Our stories of life as a teenager can be a reassurance to them as well. Most young people will relate to true stories. They want us to work collaboratively with them and help them achieve their personal goals and tasks.
- NEGOTIATE – “Because I said so …” does not tend to wash with a teenager. Give them a voice to determine their own future. Coaching our teenagers how to negotiate, reach a compromise, not always have their own way, or learn to think of others might be time-consuming. This becomes a self-empowering experience for them. They learn valuable life skills. Negotiate all the boundaries and, as they get older, relax these. Negotiate times they are allowed out, duties to do in the home (ease up a little when they have exams, as this shows empathy), computer use, TV watching time, and other uses of digital devices. Then hold them accountable for the choices they make.
- TRUST – we show our teenagers that we trust them at all times, and they can depend on us. If that trust is ever betrayed, we sit down with them and negotiate a way forward. We do not make it impossible for them to earn our trust again.
- INVEST – when we journey with teenagers we invest our time and energy in these young lives. This is worth many personal sacrifices in the long run. It is only a few years out of our lives, yet we sow future parenting seeds within our children, and create a fine parenting legacy. Our children want to share a variety of ideas and experiences with us, visit new places, even be introduced to people who can possible guide their career thoughts. When we invest time and help them to establish routines that promote, health, wellbeing, management of time, regular study schedules, and identify and name their strengths (develop resiliency) we coach key life skills.
- LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN! – teenagers want us to listen to them. They want their opinions to be valued and respected. Listening involves focusing on them when they speak, trying to hear what is not being expressed, observing their body language, trying to understand their feelings (often not being verbally expressed), and acknowledging them as they speak with a nod of the head, a smile, a hug or some other form of reassurance, and understanding.
- RESPECT – teenagers want us to respect them – their thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions. They are working out their values, so it is inevitable that there will be an emotional roller-coaster ride under way, especially as their brains are undergoing a critical phase of development until their mid-twenties. They look to us as stable and supportive partners during the adolescent journey, so it is also important for us to respect ourselves. Each one of us can look in the mirror and ask ourselves: “Do I love the person I am looking at?” If the answer is “No,” we can find support to help us become the person who will answer, “Yes!” Respectful parents never hit a child, as this can lead to aggressive and bullying behavior which will severely affect their relationships with others.
- CONSISTENCY – teenagers want adults in their lives who are consistent. They want consistent boundaries and to know that these will be enforced, even when they rant and rave because they do not get their way. One day they will look back and thank us for being firm, fair and a consistent presence in their lives. How can our teenagers hope to reach their potential if our own behavior is all over the place? We can do some mirror gazing regularly, and remind ourselves that we are the parents and the adults in the young person’s life. A lack of consistency adds to the confusion most teenagers experience as they navigate their way through adolescence.
Parents are parents
One final point. Parents are parents. We are not our teenage children’s best friends. when we develop these ten tips – as well as other qualities not mentioned. Our children will always love, respect and trust us. They listen to everything we say, even when the teenage moodometer is in full flow. And many of these points promote the spirit of mentoring and can be adapted for creating meaningful relationships with people of all ages.
Enjoy the journey – it never ends for parents.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be using their God-given talents. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Facebook or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Minutes daily podcasts (each podcast between 2 and 4 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here. About 45 blogs have been converted to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.