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Engaging with your teen and young adults

I admit, I do not have children and I do not have experience handling them 24/7 either. However, I remember being one, and how difficult a child I have been (still am) - that is being very polite; ask my mother and she will say I am a pain in the xxxx...It is honestly not easy being rebellious, takes a lot of energy - wasted energy! Having a discussion with a friend who is having issues with her children made me question about communication- is it more important to be right (?) or to have a meaningful engagement? I know being a parent is not easy, the manuals don't tell you everything mainly because each one of us have a very unique make up. However, there are still ways to have a tolerable / workable relationship with your children than to get into arguments and have them hate you (yes, they will actually do hate you; it can be that intense). So here are some tips you can help yourself to and as always, take what you need.

1) Engage with them. Ask them how they're going. Take time to be present to them and not just physically, I mean your whole being! They are learning new ways of thinking and relating. If you model this for them, they learn the meaning of empathy and what it means to care.

2) Listen! If your child feels you are interested in them, respect them, and have heard what is happening for them, they will be much more willing to hear from you. Show them what it means to 'agree to disagree' in a respectful way. If you think you are always right, and "it's my way or the highway", you can be very sure it will be the highway and you have lost them.

3) They are learning about autonomy - what it means to assert independence and make their own decisions. They are constantly evaluating and making sense of the world with themselves at the very center of it. Ask for their opinion or frame a conversation in such a way as to personally involve them; this, not only gets them involved but allows them to feel included, respected and valued.

4) Allow room for growth a.k.a = mistakes. The best way they learn to be street smart and wise is to learn by mistakes. You may tell them your opinions, share with them your concern, inform them that in every decision they make there will be consequences - good or bad. Then allow them to make their own decision, let them grow and learn what it means to be responsible and independent. Encourage them to always ask for your opinion and if you do not shove your opinions down their throats from day one, they learn to be confident that they can approach you knowing that you will listen with an open-mind.

5) Be open to learning from them, they can be right too. We are in the 21st century with technology and information / knowledge, spinning a lot faster than most of us, and children have a huge brain capacity to absorb new information very easily. Do not be intimidated by that, be open to learning and they are more than willing to teach you (show off more like it but be proud of them). Give them permission to be the expert on the subject matter; it is an excellent and affirming way to engage their interest and to get them to engage with you.

6) Give them choices. They need to be able to make their own decisions, and have control over their choices. Rather than asking, or telling telling them to complete a certain task in a certain way, give them a range of options.  This helps them to be empowered to make their own decisions rather than having their independence challenged by you.

These are just some of my suggestions.  Please feel free to add / share your method that have worked for you and your child. Happy parenting :)


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