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Can You Really Help Your Teen Without Cramping Their Style?

As a parent, there was probably a time when your tiny bundle of joy didn’t think twice about asking for your help. After all, our parents are our go-to sources of guidance and love for at least the first twelve or more years of our life, and you were likely the first person your kid’s turned to when dealing with everything from learning how to tie their shoelaces to understanding how to navigate friendship breakups.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and, while your child may well return to your guidance in their later life, their teen years, in particular, are likely to see them not only failing to turn to you first but actively rebuffing your advice. After all, everything our parents do when we’re teens has a habit of cramping our style, and advice-giving is no different. Before you know it, you could be cast out entirely, and all at a time when your child is facing a set of brand new challenges that they’re not necessarily equipped for.

This can be difficult for any dad, and things like breakups, exam stress, and more could see you wanting to barge right in there regardless of whether you’re wanted or not. Unfortunately, doing so could well make the situation worse, but that doesn’t mean that you’re entirely powerless here. All that you need to do is consider the following ways to keep on guiding your child like you always have, without the risk of cramping their style or even necessarily letting them know that you’re doing so in the first place. 

# 1 – Appreciate the value of mistakes

Your teen is growing up and learning to stand on their own two feet, which is a large part of the reason why they don’t ask for your help half as easily anymore. As difficult as this transition can be, mistakes made during this process are crucial for teaching independence and ensuring that they’re better able to handle things on their own moving forward. If you step in every time your teen looks like they’re about to do something stupid, you’ll therefore prevent them from ever learning the right ways to act for themselves. Obviously, things like putting themselves in physical harm are exceptions to this rule but, generally speaking, if your child fails to do their homework or treats a friend badly, letting the situation run its course is the best help you can offer. This way, there’s no risk that they can accuse you of meddling, yet you’ll be in the ideal position to guide them towards the lessons hiding within those mistakes, and even offer sage words of advice when they finally come to you asking for help with a resolution.

# 2 – Let them know you’re available

Teen-parent relationships involve some of the most complex social dynamics going, with teens, in particular, programmed to rally against their parents. If a pushy dad offers unwarranted advice, the divide between him and his child will only grow and could result in that teen’s complete closing down to the possibility of ever seeking help here. By comparison, something as pressure-free as letting your child know that they can talk to you without risk of judgement is going to go down far better and keep that divide carefully bridged. From here, you must take a step back and remain neutral and advice-free until your teen specifically comes to you with a problem. That way, you provide an olive branch without also pushing them away from ever perching there. 

# 3 – Draw on your own experiences

When we’re caught in the middle of them, our teen years can feel like some of the most isolating imaginable, and each experience/struggle feels like it’s unique to us. Realising that this isn’t the case can be incredibly reassuring, but it’s also not something that your teen is going to accept if you simply offer blind advice without providing context. Instead, navigating teen advice is all about drawing on your own experiences, and showing your teen that they aren’t alone in the process. After all, from the trials of heartbreak with someone who’s entirely wrong for us to the struggles of desperately searching for the right university course and an example personal statement that helps to increase our chances of getting accepted, most teen struggles are universal across ages. Even better, by talking about yourself rather than getting personal about your teen, you ensure non-invasive advice that they’re far more likely to listen to, ruminate on, and ultimately learn from. 

# 4 – Always leave the choices to your teen

If you tell any teenager what to do, they’ll throw their arms in the arm and slur the words ‘I hate you,’ or something else that sounds like it came fresh out of Kevin and Perry. Remember – your teen is in the difficult process of breaking away from you, and they don’t want you pushing them or ordering them around right now. As such, even if your teen approaches you for advice, you must leave the important choices to them. You should certainly avoid definitive language like ‘you should do this,’ or ‘you have to do that’ in place of taking a more neutral stance, and instead saying things like ‘what do you think you should do?’ While this is a subtle difference, it’s far more like the techniques employed by a psychologist, and has incredible teaching benefits for teens as it makes them come to conclusions on their own with just the slightest guidance from you to keep them on the right track and approaching problems in the most sensible ways.

Navigating your role as a parent during these teen years can feel a lot like walking on a minefield while blindfolded, but the reality is that there are ways to clear the field without an explosion. Simply start on the right footing by implementing these crucial pointers for offering advice without cramping your teen’s style or turning them against you for good.