Adolescents are in need of boundaries and freedom. Getting the mix right can be challenging and it’s easy to think they are more adult than they are when your adolescent offspring towers over you. They are still kids though and the brain is still developing.
The executive functions of the brain is the last to develop. This is the region of the brain that is responsible for higher order thinking, evaluating risk, factoring consequences and being able to navigate decisions. Adolescents need boundaries and assistance understanding the potential for trouble in their choices.
Try not to take it all to heart because if you have managed to set boundaries for them when they were younger it will be easier. A few tips though:
• Avoid trying to be their best friend, that’s not your job.
• Model the standards of behaviour you want to see so if you would like them to speak respectfully then it’s best to also do this. A more challenging aspect of modelling is alcohol use.
• Be willing to bargain and negotiate but be careful to maintain your bottom line e.g. “ OK you can go to the party and I’ll come and collect you at…o’clock”
• Get to know their friends and the parents of these friends. Those phone numbers will be a comfort when you are trying to track them down past their curfew.
• Be very careful what comes out of your mouth. Never threaten to shut them out of your life or kick them out of your house. They are able to forget all the instructions you give them but will remember word for word any hurtful threat.
• When they stuff up don’t go on and on, just acknowledge that you are disappointed and say something like “I’m sure you will do better next time.” They really need you to have faith in them and remember they are NOT adults yet, they still have their L plates on.
• Invest in the relationship with your adolescent by having a weekend away together or even just afternoon tea/breakfast in a café. This communicates that you value them and their emergent adult self.
• Don’t worry about them hating you for setting a boundary, curfew or limit because if you are unhappy about it they will sniff this out and start a more intense negotiation. They will come around especially if you don’t go on and on about it, once you’ve set a boundary there’s no need to keep talking.
• In times of conflict try to keep cool and not feed the flames. If they are having a go at you and insulting you its best to ignore this at the time. Later you can go to them and say When you swore at me and slammed the door I felt really hurt and I need to know we support each other in this family.
• This When you, I felt I need is a winning formula and is a good way to model conflict resolution.