Since they were toddlers, our teens have been watching our every move and absorbing our habits, pet peeves and values. Though it may not feel like it (and they might not admit it), even in their teenage years they are still paying attention.
Mindful parenting is exactly what it sounds like – being mindful, or aware, of how your actions and relationships affect your teen. Not only as a teen, but as someone who is looking for information on how to become an adult.
Ways to Be More Mindful of Personal & Parenting Habits
- Model healthy relationships. This one is important! Teens learn about relationships from multiple sources, but their first glimpse comes from you, their parent. Practice the four healthy relationship characteristics from the “Healthy Relationships” category not only in your adult relationships, but with your teens as well.
- Keep in mind gender equity. Often when parents discuss dating and dating violence with their teens, girls get the “be careful” talk and boys sometimes don’t get a talk at all. When it comes to dating violence, teens of all genders need conversations about safe dating – to ensure all of their relationships are healthy for everyone involved.
- Manage anger. One of the warning signs of abuse in a dating relationship is a partner who is quick to get angry. It can be easy to get frustrated with your teen – parenting can be stressful to say the least. If we find ourselves upset with our teens, it’s helpful for them to watch us model healthy anger or conflict resolution. A few things to keep in mind:
- Try to breathe or take a break before talking with your teen. Sometimes when the anger has a chance to subside, you may feel differently about the situation or better able to share what you want to say.
- Ask yourself what is causing your anger. Are you feeling overwhelmed, under-appreciated or worried about them? Taking a break and then sharing with your teen the source of your anger can be helpful to your relationship and also serve as a good model for their relationships.
- Listen and empathize. Again, a characteristic of a healthy relationship is good communication which includes active listening and showing concern for the other person’s thoughts and feelings. When your teen is talking to you, are you free from distraction? No phones or television? To help your teen feel listened to, you can make eye contact while they are speaking and repeat back what they’ve shared to make sure you understand. To show empathy, it can be helpful to remember our teenage years. As parents, the woes of high school don’t seem so bad, but for teenagers – they can be monumental. Try not to brush off what you view as unimportant. Show your teen that you care about all their concerns – big or small.
- Admit mistakes. We are all human, and we all make mistakes – parents included. Admit when you make a mistake and apologize – it role models strength and good character.
Talking Points & Tips
Part of mindful parenting is checking in with your teen and asking how they feel about their relationship with you. Remember to allow them to speak without getting defensive. If they say something you feel is untrue, ask them to explain more and then you can work together towards a solution. A few questions:
- What do you think about our relationship?
- Do you feel I listen to you enough?
- If you could improve one thing about our relationship, what would it be?
Check out The Center for Parenting Education for information on active listening.
Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Teen
The teenage years can be difficult. We, along with our teen, are trying to navigate our teen’s growing need for independence while acknowledging the fact that they are still minors, students and our children. Setting good boundaries for your child does not mean giving them unlimited freedom or not checking in and being a parent.
Good boundaries with your teen can be shown by allowing them small amounts of trust and freedom at a time. For example: Your teen wants to go to the mall with their friend alone. Rather than saying “absolutely yes” or “absolutely no,” you may choose to begin to give your teen that time alone, but with clear rules to start (you drop them off and pick them up, or require them to answer their phone if you call, etc.). Try to find a happy medium between respecting your teen’s desire to express their independence and your responsibilities as a parent. Meeting your teen halfway on these issues can strengthen your relationship, and help your teen develop responsibility over time.
Also know that it is normal for our teens to be unhappy with us sometimes. They will not always like or understand the decisions we make. It can be helpful to explain to your teen the reasoning behind your decisions. You can also allow your teen to share how your decisions make them feel, and acknowledge those feelings without changing the boundaries you have set.
Talking Points & Tips
Boundaries can be tricky because ultimately you are the parent and you set the rules. However, you are trying to raise a respectful, independent person. Checking in with your teen on the boundaries you set for them can be a good way to start a conversation. Asking how they feel about some of the rules you have in place, does not mean you are going to change them. It can, however, give you the opportunity to help your teen understand why you set those rules.
- What do you think about [name a rule]?
- If you could do away with any rule, which one would it be?
- What do you think is a good way to show me you are responsible?