How Adolescents and Adults Can Model a Healthy Relationship with Stress
When they were little, they wanted to tell you everything. It seemed like there wasn’t a moment of the day your child didn’t want your attention. And now they’re a teenager, and all you want is to talk with them and have a conversation that doesn’t feel like an argument.
The teen years are a hard time for you and your adolescent, which can add stress to your relationship. During these years, they will push limits, seem moody, and can blow your mind with how often they answer your questions with one-word answers. Connecting and building healthy relationships during this time can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. With proper boundaries set, your teen will gain independence, feel supported, and make good decisions. Boundaries can be important for parents to have a sense of control and let them feel cared for while giving the teen a healthy amount of independence. How can teens and adults model a healthy relationship while under stress? This blog will cover factors to keep in mind while connecting with your teen to keep your relationship happy and healthy.
Connect and Empathize with Your Teen
You can’t expect to build a connection with your teen if you don’t spend time with them. Find an activity both of you enjoy and ask if they would like to join you. Some teens may initially seem hesitant, but having one-on-one time with them is essential to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship. When you’re spending time with them, make it a point to have a positive conversation, this is not a time for addressing concerns or problems. Before addressing more serious things, you need to create an environment for open communication that will build mutual trust and respect. When talking with your teen, listen before responding and responding instead of reacting. When they speak to you about a problem, resist the urge to fix things and just be there to listen and validate.
So often parents seem to shrug off their teen’s stress as if it’s no big deal and not take them seriously. When dealing with a teen, think back to how you felt when you were their age. Remember the barriers you had when telling your parents about personal things. Empathize with them about how complicated life can be and validate their feelings. Don’t say something like, “I know how you feel…” which implies that their feelings don’t matter or that they will change. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and needs by actively listening to them before sharing your own thoughts.
Create Natural Consequences
Problem-solving is an important life skill that is learned through life experiences. If you bail your adolescent out of every mistake, they will miss out on a great learning opportunity. Let your teen face natural consequences that result from their actions. Sometimes natural consequences are more of a learning moment than taking away their phone or car. This will also help deter any power struggles that arise when assigning consequences and make your relationship less stressful for both of you.
Remember You are Still the Parent
As you may have noticed, teens like to push set boundaries. This is normal and part of the process of striving to be independent when there are still rules that need to be consistently applied. However, boundaries and rules can change as maturity, trust, and independence increase. Remember that you are the parent and your teen still needs you. Even on the most challenging days of crying and screaming, they need you to know you love them unconditionally and feel your support and approval.
Boundaries allow for structure and safety and remind your teen that they have your unconditional love. Try not to yell or scream, especially in front of their friends. Use set consequences infrequently and use rewards instead. Figure out consequences and incentives together before any incidents happen. That way, they feel they have been heard and have a reason to respect the boundaries. Remember, teens look up to their parents. Research shows that parents greatly influence an adolescent’s choices, including risk-taking choices like smoking or drug use.
Respect Each Other
Respect is an essential factor in any relationship, especially in the one between you and your teen. Teens are more likely to respect others when they feel they are respected. Even though teens may seem a little dramatic or act silly, it is important to take their concerns seriously. Don’t belittle or dismiss them when they share a problem that seems minute or trivial to you. Validate your teen’s feelings and let them know that you get it. You won’t always agree with them, but make your compassions and respect for them known as you disagree. Get to know your teen’s friends while not putting a negative label on them. Respect your adolescent’s privacy while still keeping an eye on what’s going on. Acknowledge your teen’s strengths and help them build on them. Let them know what you need from them instead of what you don’t want your teen to do.
Remember, we all have emotions that might take us places we don’t want to go. We want to show teens what emotional management looks like and that it can be done with healthy coping skills. We don’t want to show them disrespect by letting our emotions get the best of us. It’s normal to get angry or frustrated when this happens, especially when dealing with teens who haven’t reached emotional maturity yet. It’s very important that when we are frustrated not to react by yelling or screaming, especially in front of their friends. Setting up consequences is important, but don’t rely on consequences alone. Use rewards to build on their strengths. When you feel emotions getting high, walk away. Be a model of managing high emotions in a healthy and respectful way.
Stress in your relationship with your teen can be stressful at times! Teens can be moody, dramatic, and sometimes make poor choices, but they are just striving for independence, self-awareness, and figuring out how to navigate life. They need direction, support, and boundaries to feel safe and find the ability to make sound decisions. Listen, learn, and connect with your teen and build the relationship by listening and validating, not just trying to solve their problems. Have positive interactions with them, not just negative interactions. Remember, it takes five positive interactions to balance out every negative interaction.
Having a stressful relationship with your teen can be scary! There is so much change happening within and around your teen. It’s understandable why they can be moody, dramatic, or make poor choices. They are striving for independence and growth and are figuring out how to navigate life. Be the direction, support, and boundaries they need to feel secure and find the ability to make good decisions. Listen, learn, and connect with your adolescent and build a relationship with them by being a listening ear and validating them, not just trying to solve their problems. Have positive interactions with them, not just negative interactions. When you put time and effort into creating a healthy relationship with your teen, you’re creating a relationship that will last between the two of you long after they have grown up and gone on to accomplish great things.
“Healthy Relationships in Adolescence.” Office of Population Affairs
Margaret R. Paccione-Dyszlewski, PhD. “Teens, Stress and How Parents Can Help.” Lifespan, 11 Sept. 2022.
Lisa Brickert, MSW, LCSW. “Relationship Stress: Connecting With Your Teen.” North Shore Family Services
David Wolfe. “Tips for Building Healthy Relationships with Your Teenagers.” cahm
“Healthy Parent-Teen Relationships.” The Whole Child, 24 Nov. 2018
Christie Hopkins. “Teenager Parent Relationship: How to Build a Healthy Relationship.” Psych Central, 23 Jan. 2016