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7 easy ways to boost your relationship with your teen

Every stage of parenting has its own unique set of challenges and the Teenage years can be some of the hardest. Brisbane-based Child and Family Practitioner Afra Durance spends her days helping parents navigate the ups and downs of the teenage years through a free government-funded online service in Australia called Reach Out Parents One-on-One Support. This service offers advice and support via live online chat and phone. 

Afra often finds herself supporting parents to adopt a new way of thinking and interacting with their teen, which comes from a place of understanding, connection and communication.

“The sense of control parents previously had when their children were young – that changes in adolescence. And it is important to recognise there is an element of normalcy to that change.”  Afra Durance - Child and Family Practitioner 

Based on research and Afra’s own experiences helping parents here are some simple ways to get through to your teen:

  1. Connect at every opportunity
    Connection is important because it establishes trust and invites conversations and openness. A simple connection is noticing the good things they are doing at home, and acknowledging them for it. A warm smile is sometimes all it takes. “These small moments of connection are like money in the piggy bank, it all adds up” says Afra.

  2. Listen more, talk less
    Listen with intent when your teenager speaks to you. And then ask open questions like “And how do you feel about that” or “What did you do when that happened?” Importantly, don’t try to fix things for them. If you want to offer your opinion, Afra suggests that asking “Can I share my thoughts with you on this?” can be a good way to approach this.

  3. Explain and problem solve together
    When it comes to boundaries and rule setting it’s important to discuss them openly and explain why they are there. At the same time allow your teen to give their feedback and thoughts. If your teen feels like they are heard and are part of the decision making process it’s very empowering for them. “They are more likely to respect those boundaries when they do” says Afra.

  4. Keep calm or postpone the conversation
    As hard as it can be at times, try not to speak in anger or scream at your teenager. For example, when your teenager arrives home after their curfew and you are feeling angry and upset with them, you could say “I’m glad you’re home safely” and follow up with them the next day. By postponing the conversation you are not letting them off the hook. The next day you could say “We need to talk about last night” and then discuss boundaries in a calm way. “When everyone is angry, we don’t have our best conversations”, Afra says.

  5. Delay parenting decisions
    In the case of your teen arriving home after curfew, they might suggest a later curfew as a solution. If you’re not comfortable with that or want to think about it some more, delay your decision by saying “That’s a valid thing to raise, let me have a think about it and we’ll discuss this again.”

  6. Ask for help
    “You can feel very alone and think you’re the only one facing challenges parenting a teenager. I can assure you, you aren’t alone and reaching out can really help and lead to better outcomes for you and your teen”, Afra says. Don’t be afraid to reach out for some help, it may simply be a matter of making a tweak to what you are doing.

  7. Look for the joy
    When things get tricky on the parenting journey, “keep one finger on the joy” Afra says. “Despite the tough times, parenting can also be joyful and that joy can be obscured by everything else.”

If you need some extra support, Afra and her colleagues at ReachOut Parents one-to-one support offer tailored advice to parents and carers of teenagers. All support is free and confidential. A child and family practitioner will assist you to create an action plan that works for you and your teenager and will then support you through that plan with up to four one-on-one sessions, delivered via phone or online. 

The Benevolent Society provide coaches for this program as they are experts in family and parenting support. To find out more or register to speak to one of the Reach Out team members visit parents.au.reachout.com/one-on-one-support

This article was brought to you by the Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network.