How do parents help their teenage and young adult children most?
Parents often struggle to find the most helpful way to empower their older children without going to the extremes of either being overbearing (the “helicopter” parent) or appearing to be uncaring (the completely “hands-off-because-you’re-on-your-own” parent). The principles I share below will help you help teens and young adults.
Consider these simple principles to see how they may help you today:
LOVE – Always, always, always verbally reaffirm your love for them and back it up by doing loving things no matter what is going on and no matter how your son or daughter responds. They need you to prove that your love is constant.
TEACH – Instead of reacting to your son’s or daughter’s actions or interests with an attitude of control or purely an enforcement of the family rules or expectations, think about what they are still learning and how you can use this moment to help them to learn. Ask them questions out of empathy to find out their thoughts and feelings. This reinforces the love, gives you a better understanding of your child, and helps them to feel like you are on their side.
GIVE OPPORTUNITIES TO CHOOSE – The teenage and young adult years are a testing ground for them and for you, just as younger years are, but to a higher degree. Teens can’t make every choice for themselves but think about what choices they can make today that will empower them through a learning experience. It’s OK if they don’t choose exactly what you would choose – they have to make choices. You have a lot more experience choosing than they do. Really be there for them regardless of the choices they make.
While these principles are simple in concept, they may not always be “simple” to apply in a strained family system.
Utah Family Therapy helps you to connect as a family, minimize shame so you can have a transformative experience.
-Torrey Harmon, Clinical Director of Utah Family Therapy