Parents begin shaping their children to know the difference between right and wrong, identify their own value system, and combat peer pressure from the moment they are born. However, as children move through childhood into the teenage years, parents can’t always be there to help them make the right decisions. Additionally, teens begin to identify more with their friends than with their parents (the lovely “my parents know nothing” stage) and peer pressure and friend drama begins.
The question then is: do I let my teen get sucked into the pressure and problems of their friends? The short answer is, no. The long answer is a little more complicated. Here are some tips to help your teen form healthy boundaries and learn to support their friends without getting sucked into others’ drama.
Start talking to your teen early about healthy boundaries. Just talking with your teen about what a boundary is can be the first step to creating healthy ones. The definition of a boundary is “something that indicates a limit.” Therefore, know your limits, know what you are and are not able to do for others, and stick to them. When we know what our own boundaries are, we are able to articulate them with confidence to the people around us, and they are more likely to respect our boundaries.
Model how you hold your own boundaries with the people around you. Just talking to your teens about healthy boundaries isn’t enough. They need to see what it means in action. If we demonstrate rigid boundaries, we may come off as cold and uncaring. If our boundaries are too loose, we may be too passive and can be taken advantage of by others. Saying “no” can be easier if you give an alternative for something you are willing to do that may meet that person’s need. For example, “I’m so sorry I won’t be able to help you prepare for the party, I’d love to help clean up though!” When setting appropriate boundaries with people around you, let your teen in on your thought process and tell them how and why you are making a specific decision or why you hold that boundary. This will help them better learn how to do it themselves.
Help your child develop healthy self-esteem. In order to not take on the problems of others, we have to feel confident in saying “no” and believe that our own needs (as well as others) matter and should be respected. Part of this comes from our own sense of self, and how we feel about ourselves. Help your teen build strong self-esteem by complimenting their efforts versus labeling their actions. For example, instead of saying “great job getting an A!,” you might say “you worked really hard on that project.” You can also reflect the positive things you see them doing on a daily basis. Too often we talk about what is going wrong; make sure to take some time to talk about what your teen is doing right. Lastly, encourage positive self-talk. Instead of “I failed this test, I’m so dumb,” encourage them to say “while I didn’t do my best this time, I can try to do better on the next one.”
Realize that your child might not have the same boundaries as you. One of the hardest tasks parents face is the realization that their teen isn’t an extension of themselves. It is important to recognize that your teen is separate from you; your teen will have different viewpoints and experiences, as well as make decisions, that are different from your own. Therefore, it is essential to provide discipline and structure, while also listening to and respecting their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. This will send the message that you value what they have to say and how they feel, even if you don’t always agree.
At the end of the day, teens are well on their way to becoming independent, self-sufficient adults with their own belief system and boundaries. Parents are not able to help them make the best decision in every situation. Therefore, I would encourage you to help your teen develop the skills necessary to think critically about the decisions they make and help them identify what they can do differently when they make a mistake. Life is a continuous learning process, and we are bound to get it wrong from time to time – and that’s okay! With these tips, you and your teen will continue to learn and grow together.
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TEEN THERAPY CENTER CAN HELP!
Would you like additional guidance in this area? Teen Therapy Center provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.