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7 Secrets To Raising Awesome, Capable Teenagers

Raising teenagers can feel like navigating a maze with shifting walls. As a mum of two boys, Tuning Into Teens educator and a qualified counsellor specialising in children and adolescent behaviour and mental health, I find teenagers to be truly great humans with so much to give. Their unique perspectives, boundless energy, and potential for growth make them a constant source of inspiration.

However, as a counsellor, I understand the challenges and triumphs parents face during these transformative years. One minute they’re your best mate, sharing a laugh over dinner, and the next, they’re sulking in their room because you dared to suggest they tidy up. My top tip: Embrace the journey with a sense of humour, and remember—it’s not about perfection, but connection. So, while these tips can guide you, there’s no 100% guarantee. Just like a boomerang, sometimes your efforts will come right back to you...and sometimes they'll take a detour!

Son and dad sharing time together
Raising teens is about connection, not perfection
Even with all the wisdom in the world, there will still be days when your teenager's behaviour makes you question if they're actually an alien on a secret mission to test your sanity!

Here, I share some secrets I've discovered to raising awesome, capable and functional teenagers, blending my personal experiences and professional insights to guide you through this journey:

1. Understand the Teenage Brain:

The teenage brain is truly a work in progress. As a counsellor, I can't stress enough how important it is to understand this development process to empathise with your teen's behaviour. During adolescence, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, self-control, and planning, is still maturing. This means that teens are more likely to rely on their amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, leading to impulsive and emotionally driven decisions.

Why is this crucial? Because recognising that your teen's brain is still developing helps you approach their behaviour with patience and empathy. Instead of viewing their actions as rebellious or irrational, you can understand that they are navigating a complex period of growth. This insight allows you to support them more effectively, fostering a positive parent-teen relationship. I've seen firsthand how understanding this can transform the way you interact with your teenagers. It shifts the focus from punishment to guidance, helping them develop the skills they need to make better decisions and manage their emotions. By recognising the biological underpinnings of their behaviour, you can better help your teen through this tumultuous yet transformative stage of life.

2. Encourage Independence and Responsibility:

Teenagers crave independence! As they gear up to step into adulthood, they're often eager to spread their wings and take on more responsibilities. This drive for independence isn't just a whim; it's a critical part of their growth and development. Encouraging teenagers to take on responsibilities and make their own decisions is like giving them a taste of what's to come. It's a bit like showing them the ropes of adulthood before they officially enter that phase. This process isn't just about letting them do things on their own; it's about empowering them to do so confidently.

When teenagers are given the chance to make choices and handle responsibilities, they start building their self-confidence brick by brick. Whether it's managing their finances, making decisions about their education or career path, or even handling day-to-day tasks such as washing and cooking, each experience adds to their sense of capability. Moreover, this journey towards independence is like a training ground for life skills. They learn to problem-solve, communicate effectively, manage their time, and deal with challenges head-on. So, while it might seem daunting to let teenagers take the reins at times, it's a crucial step in their development. It's about striking a balance between guidance and independence, creating an environment where they can thrive and grow into capable, confident adults.

3. Foster Emotional Intelligence:

Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as emotional quotient (EQ), refers to the capacity to recognise, understand, and manage emotions in oneself and others effectively. This includes being aware of one's emotions, harnessing them constructively, empathising with others, and handling interpersonal relationships with empathy and sensitivity. In counselling, we often use "emotional intelligence" and "emotional quotient" interchangeably, emphasising the importance of emotional understanding and management in personal and social contexts.

High emotional intelligence is strongly associated with better mental health outcomes, including lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Individuals with high EI tend to have more resilience in coping with life's challenges and are better equipped to navigate difficult situations with emotional balance and composure. They can also build and maintain stronger, more meaningful relationships, as they are attuned to others' emotions and can communicate and connect empathetically.

4. Educate About Mental Health:

About half of all mental illness begins by age 14. Educating teenagers about mental health is crucial in promoting their overall wellbeing. By providing them with knowledge about common mental health issues, coping strategies, and avenues for seeking help, we empower young people to manage their emotions and navigate challenges more effectively. This education also helps reduce stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging open discussions and creating a supportive environment where teens feel comfortable addressing their mental and emotional needs. Ultimately, this proactive approach to mental health education lays a foundation for healthier lifestyles and stronger resilience in adolescents.

5. Encourage Positive Friendships:

Friends play a crucial role in a teenager's life, contributing significantly to their social, emotional, and psychological development. Healthy, supportive friendships offer numerous benefits that positively influence a teen's behaviour and choices. Firstly, friends provide companionship and a sense of belonging, which are essential for adolescents navigating the complexities of identity formation and social integration.

Having friends who accept and understand them can boost self-esteem and confidence, helping teens feel valued and validated. Frenemies and toxic friendships among teenagers are unfortunately quite common. The pressure to fit in and the desire for acceptance can sometimes lead to unhealthy dynamics within friendships. Whereas, true friends serve as a support network during challenging times, offering empathy, advice, and encouragement. Teenagers often turn to their friends for emotional support and validation, which can help them cope with stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Positive friendships also promote resilience, teaching teens valuable skills in communication, conflict resolution, and empathy.

6. Stay Involved In Their Lives:

Being actively involved in your teenager's life is a powerful way to demonstrate care and support, showing them that you're there for them in their journey of growth and development. This involvement goes beyond just being physically present; it involves engaging with them emotionally, mentally, and socially. By participating in their interests, listening to their concerns, and being available for conversations, you create a foundation of trust and connection.

However, it's crucial to strike a balance that respects their increasing need for independence. This means being supportive without being intrusive, offering guidance without being overbearing, and encouraging autonomy while providing a safety net of support. This balanced approach helps teenagers feel understood, valued, and empowered as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of adolescence.

7. Handle Conflict Constructively

Conflicts are an inevitable part of life, and how we navigate them can have a profound impact, especially on teenagers who are still developing their emotional intelligence and social skills. When teens experience conflicts, whether with peers, family members, or authority figures, it's an opportunity for them to learn valuable lessons about conflict resolution.

Teaching them constructive ways to address disagreements, such as active listening, expressing emotions calmly, seeking compromise, and understanding differing perspectives, not only resolves immediate issues but also equips them with lifelong skills. By modeling and encouraging healthy conflict resolution strategies, parents and educators can empower teens to handle conflicts effectively, build stronger relationships, and contribute positively to their family and communities.

Teenagers Confound Parents: Manual on How to Decode Eye Rolls Still Missing!

Raising teens can be both amusing and confusing, as they navigate a world between childhood and adulthood with their unique blend of humour and unpredictability. Their evolving personalities and occasional mood swings can keep parents on their toes, often leading to moments of laughter mixed with moments of head-scratching bewilderment. Yes, raising awesome, functional teenagers requires a balance of understanding, communication, and support. By fostering a positive and nurturing environment, setting clear boundaries, and encouraging independence, you can help your teenager navigate the challenges of adolescence and emerge as a confident, responsible, and emotionally intelligent adult.

Remember, as both a counsellor and trained Tuning Into Teens Facilitator, I understand the complexities of this journey, and I'm here to support you every step of the way.

ABOUT PRUE LONGSTAFF, COUNSELLOR Prue Longstaff, a mental health specialist and registered counsellor based in Mansfield, Victoria, is a member of the Mental Health Academy, an organisation that ensures ongoing professional development. Additionally, she is accredited by the Australian Counselling Association (ACA). Using the most recent evidence-based research and her professional connections with top organisations such as the Australian Institute of Family Services (AIFS), Emerging Minds, Black Dog Institute, Melbourne University's Tuning into Teens (TINT) program, and many more, Prue offers her practice a wealth of experience and knowledge. Prue's sympathetic manner and customised interventions demonstrate her unwavering dedication to promoting clients' wellbeing. Prue's work is informed by a profound comprehension of the distinct obstacles encountered by her clients, guaranteeing that her clients have the necessary care and support to flourish.


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