The Pressures of Parenting a Teen
So, a topic that comes up a lot in my work with teens is pressure. Teens often feel a lot of pressure. They feel it from their parents, their schools, their friends, their followers on social media, and from the world around them as a whole. Even before social media came to be, it was really typical, and developmentally normal, for teens to feel that the whole world is watching them. And now they have proof that the whole world is watching, or not watching them, in terms of numbers of shares, likes, comments, snaps, texts, etc. As many parents recognize, it is a whole new ball game in raising kids, particularly teens.
What I notice to be really challenging for parents of teens is knowing how much pressure is enough, too much, or not enough. There is just so much pressure on teens, but also on their parents in our current society and culture. There is far more information known about development, parenting, and what is needed to be successful in our world. And honestly, as a new mom and therapist, I would say that there is way TOO MUCH information about all of it. There are a thousand parenting books out there and if I, the parenting “expert,” feel like I should read all of them despite my years of experience, education, and training on parenting, I can only imagine the pressure other parents feel.
With parenting teens, there is also the additional pressure of college plus a limited number of years left that our teens live with us. The questions arise... have I done a good job? Are they ready for the world? How are they going to do anything on their own? Will they get into college? Will they make it in the real world? I could go on and on and on because the questions and the doubts are just never-ending. This leads to a huge amount of pressure but also fear for parents. Unfortunately, this can translate to our kids as feeling that we doubt them, rather than we doubt ourselves.
Regardless of how much pressure you end up thinking your teen needs in order to help them thrive as a young adult, make sure that the message you give them is that they can do it, that you believe in them, and that you never, ever doubt them and their ability to be a successful person. Showing them you have faith in them will do more than pressure ever will!
But, Erica, how much pressure should I put on them???
Interestingly, there is no simple answer to the question, how much pressure is enough, where teens are considered. I believe that what is most important with teens and knowing the right amount of pressure is paying a lot of attention to who your kid is. If your teen is super motivated and puts a lot of pressure on themself without you intervening, then I think parents are in a lucky situation of really pulling back on their oversight of things. This group of kids needs independence and to be allowed some wiggle room to figure themselves out and how to manage the pressure they put on themselves.
If your teen is on the less motivated end of the spectrum, you most likely need to be providing some sort of extrinsic rewards to help them with their motivation. While this might seem like “pressure,” it is really just setting things up so that in order for your teen to have the things they like (phone, computer, friend time, etc.), they have to do the things they might not want to do (schoolwork, volunteering, chores, etc.).
While this discussion seems very categorical, I would actually suggest that it is just two ends of the spectrum that I am mentioning. Most kids are somewhere in between and need a nuanced approach of parent support, outside rewards, and then some level of wiggle room to make mistakes and figure out what they really want. If you feel that you need more support in figuring out how to support your teen, feel free to give our team at Thrive a call! We love working with parents to help their teens be more successful and to help them feel good about what they are doing as parents.
One last note, where parents are considered in terms of how much pressure is enough, I’m going to be blunt and just say that it is almost always too much. Way. Too. Much. Pressure. From ourselves, and from others. When I write my blogs, I even worry that my voice is adding to the pressure parents feel to always do or say the “right” things for their kids and families. The truth is, we are all going to screw up a little bit and what really matters is remembering we as parents are a work in progress, and so are our kids and teens. They are just figuring life out too and we all need some grace and compassion!
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child or teen psychotherapy services in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
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