By Ghadeer Ghloum
KUWAIT: As soon as their children reach the teenage years, parents start worrying about the consequences of hormonal changes that affect their mood and character, which impact the nature of the relationship between them. However, with good communication and trust, parents can befriend their teenage kids and build a healthy bond with them. Due to the vulnerability of this phase in our lives, Kuwait Times interviewed Dr Safaa Al-Zaqqah, Educational and Family Consultant, and mothers of teenagers to share their perspectives and experiences on raising teenagers.
In order for parents to have a healthy bond with teenagers, Dr Zaqqah highlighted the importance of befriending teens, validating their emotions, reciprocating affection and attention, listening to them and giving them a chance to express themselves freely in order to earn their trust. She also necessitated spending quality time between parents and their teenage children and help them get accustomed to being with their parents.
Lulwa Al-Terkait, External Relations Officer – UNHCR, said being a mother of two teenagers, one 14 and the other 17, she has experienced a change in the nature of her relationship with her children. However, it is not a negative shift but rather a positive one. Terkait’s teenage children now seek guidance and awareness while befriending their mother. They dislike being ordered to do things, yet they seek sensible advice.
According to her, teenagers seek valid reasons for the things they are commanded to do. They no longer accept rejection without justifications, because such rejections will be taken as competition by teenagers, which is natural for their age, as they are in the phase of building their character. Because Terkait has awareness of this phase and understands her teenage kids’ emotions, her bond with them improved positively.
“To me, this phase is a positive experience because it has enhanced our relationship to another level. To reach this stage, parents need to understand their emotions, because at this age, teenagers become more sensitive. So, you should watch the way you say things to them and keep in mind the people who are present while talking to your teenagers,” she explained.
She added at this phase of their life, teenagers are being prepared to become adults; therefore, they must be given a chance to face things and fix problems themselves, while monitoring them from a distance, where you can give advice accordingly. Thus, direct monitoring is no longer valid. Being teenagers, they start to seek their independence and try to do things their own way. Yet, they are still not ready to take the wisest decisions. This keeps parents’ guidance necessary.
In terms of mistrust or distance between parents and their children, Terkait suggests seeking help from a specialist. She said it is totally fine to seek therapy in order to find a balanced solution that solidifies the ground between the two parties. Parents also should self-reflect and be honest with themselves in order to understand what were the reasons behind losing their children’s trust.
Honest and clear communication are key to a solid relationship between the two parties and parents must make sure this exists since an early age, so their children grow being used to communicating and opening up to their parents. Today, there are always ways to keep a relationship healthy between both parties, as you can search the Internet or reach out to experts for help.
Om Abdullah, a mother of three, said the change in relationship between parents and their children is based on the parents’ communication skills with their kids during this phase. Concurring with Terkait, Om Abdullah said parents must try to get closer to their children and try to understand them to earn their trust, especially that during this phase they go through some hormonal changes that may affect their mood. Good listening and good communication are key to gaining their trust and helping them open up.
Parents may face some challenges while listening to their children when they go through this phase, in terms of the way their kids might be thinking, but to avoid any conflicts that may lead to mistrust and lack of communication, parents must have patience. In such situations, patience is key to provide love and keep the relationship sound. At some points, despite their dissatisfaction, parents must give love and attention to the teenagers so that they do not feel lonely and misunderstood, which would push them to become introverted and isolated.
Another important thing is respecting their personal space and giving it to them. Om Abdullah sees teenagers’ search for their personal space away from their parents as a natural thing for every individual. Therefore, parents must start understanding that their kids have the right to have their personal space; however, they need to make sure to give advice and guidance that would raise their awareness and prepare them for interacting with different people.