7 things to keep in mind to support teens social-emotional development

Author: Rishmita Naidu Kakal – School Counsellor & ISC Psychology Teacher, Jasudben ML School (JML) – a premier ICSE school in Khar, Mumbai

Teenage years are known to be crucial as children make the transition to adulthood. It can get difficult for parents to communicate with their teenage kids, as they don’t always understand the emotional turbulence inside their kids’ minds nor are the teenagers able to express themselves freely.

These issues are a mixture of physical, social, psychological and emotional changes which start at the onset of adolescence, and play a crucial role in the development of the child. Socially, teenagers go on a path of self-discovery, form new friendships, begin to experience peer pressure and start to seriously think about their careers, which makes it a tumultuous time for them.

Emotionally, a child entering teenage begins to experience hormonal changes, which lead to emotional turbulence, self-esteem issues, self-consciousness, and the start of addressing conflicts with themselves and others.

In such circumstances, the onus is on parents and teachers to be able to get through to the teenager and provide them with a supportive environment, where they can express themselves freely.

If you’re an educator or guardian, this seven-step approach can help in building a supportive environment for your child:

Be a Role Model

A parent is the first adult a child looks up to and many children aspire to become like them. So set an example for your teenager by talking to them about the importance of making the right choices in difficult situations, and chat with them freely about why the choices need to be made. Only if you set the precedent, is your teenager likely to follow suit.

Listen to Your Child

This step is especially important as the most common feeling that teenagers have is not being heard. Break that chain by encouraging your child to open up to you and truly lend them an ear. Sit at the table for a meal and encourage them to talk about their day, their friends, etc.

Explore and Talk About Relationships

At this age children want to explore relationships and experience romantic love. As a parent, normalize those feelings for your teenager by talking to them about your own romantic past, if there is one. Hearing about your experience as a teenager learning to navigate romantic relationships, or even hearing you talk about school crushes, will help them to relate with you and not feel isolated about their own experience.

New Experience: Ask the Child to Reflect

As a parent, it should also be your responsibility to teach your teenager how to deal with adversity and come out stronger. Urge them to assess the situation they’ve had to be in, be it an altercation with a classmate, bullying or cyberbullying, having to make morally right choices, etc and what each situation has taught them. This will help them become emotionally mature, and also appreciate your guidance in the process.

Acceptance of their Friends in your World

At this age their friends become integral to them as they lean on them for emotional support. Parents need to accept the importance of these friends in their teenager’s life and give them space and freedom to cultivate these friendships.

Give your Perspective to them about how you Feel as a Parent

Communication with a teenager has to be a two-way street. While you must listen to your child, it is equally important for them to understand what you feel as a parent. Sit with them and talk to them about your feelings and concerns as that will help them understand your perspective.

Engage in Games like Monopoly, Pictionary or Cards

It can be daunting to try to befriend a teenager. Therefore, it is important to engage with your child as much as you can through games like card games, board games and others as this allows you to continue engagement in a neutral setting and enjoy spending time with each other as well.

Research has shown that the choice of friendships an individual makes is highly influenced by the warm, supportive and responsive style of parenting in teenage years. This doesn’t mean that you stop guiding them. It means to have a clear and consistent rule followed that are known to your child.

Parenting can have such a powerful impact on your child’s future, and with great power comes great responsibility.

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