Helping your teen transition into adulthood requires communication, encouragement and guidance, according to Lynne Huff, author of Thank You For All You’ve Done For Me. As a former youth minister and mother of two, Huff of Ortonville, in southeast Michigan, says she wrote the book to help moms and dads learn how to parent their teens.
It’s best, she says, if parents start early, by slowly making changes in the way they raise their children. Inching up their curfew or bedtime over a few years, for instance, will make the transition easier for your family.
To give parents a jumpstart on having a good relationship with their teens, Huff offers these 10 tips:
1. Family rituals
Maybe it’s a day at the park or a movie night at home. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you designate a day or time to spend together. In the long run, this ritual breaks down the wall between parents and children – and opens up discussion when needed. “Family time should be fun and enriching, not just times to discuss and iron-out problems,” Huff says.
2. Words of wisdom
Having worked as a youth minister for more than 15 years, religion is important to Huff – and in her book, she advises families to create a family prayer to recite before dinner or bed. If that’s not a factor for your family, Huff says you can read an inspirational poem or quote that resonates with your family as an alternative to a prayer.
3. Rites of passage
As your teens transition, it’s important to give them the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. However, as Huff points out, this isn’t something you can do overnight. Slowly, give your children the chance to make their own decisions, but help guide them. Remember: Part of growing up is making bad choices and learning from them. In fact, that’s part of life for young and old.
4. Be a role model
Demonstrate positive ways to learn, resolve conflict and make decisions. Your children will notice your example.
5. Show appreciation and affection
No matter what age your children are, they will always crave affection from mom and dad – even if they don’t admit it.
6. Make time
Between work, maintaining a home and raising a family, life can get hectic, but stop and spend some time with your child. It’s those moments when you’re simply engaging your child, without distraction, that matter the most to them. And it’s amazing how much you can learn about them when you’re not grilling them but simply hanging out and enjoying each other’s company.
7. Show them the way
Help guide your children. Teach them how to do practical things like cooking dinner or balancing a monthly budget. This is the time when they are learning practical skills that will serve them into adulthood.
8. Set clear rules and boundaries, and stick to them
Kids – no matter their age – need some boundaries. It helps them set limits, feel a sense of security that someone cares, and sometimes can help ensure their safety. Be sure that you have clear rules for your family. And enforce them. If you let kids slide, you may as well not have the rules, since your kids won’t take them seriously.
9. Express enthusiasm
When your children do well, let them know. Praise them and encourage them to keep making good decisions. Positive reinforcement really does work well in shaping behavior.
10. Have fun and laugh a lot
Life can’t be serious all the time. Enjoy it, and enjoy the time you spend with your family.
This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated for 2016.