Guide Your Teen's Emotional DevelopmentMay 23, 2017
By Jessica Vician
As you probably remember, the teenage years are taxing on everyone involved: the teenager, their parents, and brothers or sisters. Hormones are in flux and drama follows teens everywhere. Parents must be present to guide their teenager's emotional development in different ways depending on their age and needs.
In the first few years, it's important to focus on developing a positive body image. As mentioned by Dr. Denise Witmer in her article on Very Well, girls who develop early are often uncomfortable with their new, more mature bodies, but boys who develop early are often more confident.
Pay attention to your teen's physical development and that of their friends. Ask questions to understand how they are feeling. Are they developing earlier or later than their friends, and does that concern them? Assure them that in a few years, everyone's bodies will catch up to each other. Share an anecdote about what you went through, or a story about their favorite aunt or uncle or family friend.
Help build your teen's body confidence by complimenting them when they look nice or try a new look. As your teenager starts to express themself through fashion, embrace the change and show them that you notice—compliment a new hair style or their experimentation with jewelry. This mom shares more tips on how you can accept and embrace your teen's new style.
As your teen gets older and moves past the awkwardness of puberty, they will start focusing on independence and more privileges. Parents will need to set boundaries and stick to their rules, as they will be tested during this time. Teenagers will challenge the rules, argue about fairness, and desire more private time and time with friends, making it difficult for parents to know how to guide them.
First, remember that this behavior is normal and your teen doesn't hate you (even if they say they do). They are simply becoming more independent, which means you're doing your job right! You will question yourself and your rules often, which is okay—try to step back and look at situations objectively to see what rules are working and what rules aren't working. Then figure out why. You and your teen might even be able to compromise on some of the rules if you both understand the other's concern.
For example, let's say the issue is curfew. You might set curfew at 10:00 PM on weekends, but your teen's friends have a later curfew. Your teen feels left out having to leave early and wants an extension. You are worried about safety coming home late at night. To compromise, why don't you let your teen start heading home at 10:00 PM. That way, they don't have to leave too early or rush to get home on time. They can text you at 10:00 PM when they leave (even sharing a photo if you prefer), and you know they're on their way and will be home shortly.
Between physical and emotional changes that come with puberty and the desire for greater independence, the teenage years are tough on the whole family. Remember that you are your child's first teacher, even when they forget that. As their teacher, try to keep a cool head and take a step back for perspective on what they're going through. If they know you're hearing them and you're willing to compromise when possible, you will earn their trust and can help them through these emotional times.