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Earlier this month, on March 2nd, we celebrated World Teen Mental Wellness Day. However, teen mental wellness is something that requires more attention and care than just one day. Taking care of our teen’s mental wellness means taking the extra effort to build a genuine, healthy relationship with your teen!
We all know that the teen years can be some of the toughest times in parenting. With changes in body, hormones, social relationships, and a desire for independence, it’s easy to let a wall be built between us and our teens. Though they may seem resistant, our teens need us the most during these years to ensure they have a trusted and supportive adult who can help them figure out such turbulent times.
Here are four ways to build a healthy relationship with your teen:
1. Be respectful of their growing independence.
During the teen years, your teen may give you attitude, argue with you more frequently, tell you that “you don’t get it”, and overall make it very difficult to do your job as a parent. You may be feeling like you’ve failed as a parent since your teen has changed from the child you knew before. This struggle is normal! Teens are simply exploring their independence and trying to establish themselves as their own person and it is not always a pretty transition.
As their parent, it helps to be mindful of this new chapter of self-discovery. Don’t make fun of your teen or discourage them when they are exploring different parts of themselves. Encourage them to be curious and confident! It may be anxiety-provoking to watch your child make mistakes, but sometimes that is the best way to learn. Your teen will develop good judgement by making mistakes and learning from them, so grant them the autonomy and privacy to do that. Of course, you don’t want your teen to be participating in unhealthy hobbies that can mentally or physically harm them (such as drugs and underaged drinking) which brings us to the next point.
2. Establish clear boundaries & values in the family
Although your teen is becoming a young adult, you still need to remain the main adult and point of guidance for your family. Without setting any boundaries or values for your teen, too much freedom can cause your teen to experience confusion about what to do with their independence. Instead, learn to balance giving your teen space to explore while calmly establishing boundaries. This can look like, during dinner saying, “I really want to spend time with you. Let’s both agree to keep our phones off and hang out as a family!” or “I want to make sure you’re safe, so let’s set a curfew for 10pm. If you need to go past that, you’ll need to talk to me ahead of time. Is that okay with you?”. When setting boundaries with your teen, make sure to explain why the boundary is needed and if it is value based, briefly explain why the value is important to you and your family (such as your need to know your teen is safe). Asking your teens to participate in boundary setting and rules is encouraged. You will find teens are more likely to follow the rules and boundaries if they have a part in setting them.
3. Be authentic and genuine.
At this age, teens appreciate and need to see when people are authentic and genuine. This means admitting when you are unsure of things or make a mistake. You can apologize to your teen when appropriate and show them that it is okay to not be perfect. It is even ok to “take a time out” if you are emotional about a topic or situation. It is ok to say, “I need to take a time out here. Give me 5 minutes and let’s get back to our conversation.” This allows your teen to know that we are all still growing and learning. When people fail or make a mistake, the right thing to do is to acknowledge it and then learn from it. Show your teen that you are proud of them and okay with the fact that we are all “works in progress”, and there is no shame about that!
4. Be engaged & interested in your teen's life.
More importantly than anything else, do not let the hardships of the teen years ruin the love between you and your teen. Continue to show them that you care with simple actions such as asking them about their day, looking for things to compliment them on, spending quality time together or, no matter how much you dislike it, listen to their music with them. Teens love coffee, boba, frozen yoghurt, video games, watching TikTok videos, etc. Find time to connect with your teen so they know you are a resource and someone available to talk to about anything! When you are talking with your teen, it can be easy to slip into unsolicited advice that may make them feel annoyed. If your teen does talk with you about a friend or themselves, listen and do not try to problem solve. LISTEN and do not give advice. If you want to give advice, ask if they want your advice before you share. Do not shame them if they approach you with an issue and respect the decisions that they choose to make. Offer guidance if they want it, otherwise, JUST LISTEN. It is important that parents are emotionally observant and present in a teen’s life. Make time to hang out with your teen and show them that you are always there to support not shame them!
Remember, as parents, we play a large role in getting our teens through the difficult transition from a being a child to a young adult. Without guidance, your teen can feel lost and confused which can lead to issues in their mental wellness. While parents can’t protect their children from everything that comes their way, we can make sure our teens know that they will always be loved and supported! Take the first step in building a lasting relationship with your teen today, and if you’re not sure where to start, Kids’ Turn San Diego is here for you!
The term “Love Language” was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman and he believes that learning someone’s love language is essential to connecting on a more meaningful level.
Do you ever feel frustrated when your children squirm from hugs and kisses? Or, maybe you shower them in compliments and they seem annoyed? There is nothing wrong with showing love and support in this way, but for some children it may make them uncomfortable. If this is your child, THEY ARE OKAY! In reviewing Dr. Gary Chapman’s “Love Languages” for adults, we see some similarities for how they apply and are adapting them to parent-child relationships. The “Love Languages” are words of affirmation (compliments), quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. This Valentine’s Day, we challenge you to notice how your child responds to your typical way of showing love and, if you notice they may not like your way, we encourage you to try some of these ideas and see how it goes.
Words of Affirmation
Do you have a child that asks, “did I do that right? or is this right? or did I do a good job?” Or maybe they glow with joy whenever you compliment them? Do you find your child praising you? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child needs words of affirmation!
Your child may receive love and support best when you communicate through words of encouragements, praise and gratitude. Examples may be “you did a great job!”, “thank you for helping me with cleaning the house!” or “I am so lucky to be your parent!”. Here are a few ways to offer words of affirmation to your child:
- Slip a sweet note in their lunchbox. (It could be as simple as a smile face on their napkin)
- Praise them both privately and in front of others. (Be mindful not to embarrass your child)
- Notice & acknowledge their efforts. (Say things like, “I like how you worked so hard on your homework today”)
- Call them by a nickname they like. (Remember not to embarrass them in front of others)
In our programs, we hear from children all the time that they want their parents to pay attention to them. Do you have a child that interrupts you a lot? A child that likes to show you what they are doing? Do they ask you to join them when they’re playing? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child needs more quality time with you!
Your child may receive love and support best when you give them your undivided attention. You do not have to be with them 24/7, but even 10 minutes off of your devices may make a huge difference for children needing quality time. Here are a few ways to give the gift of quality time to your child:
- Dedicate and commit to spending on-on-one time with your child. (Read a book, do a puzzle, play a board game, teach them how to ride a bike, cook a meal together, whatever it is, remember to have the time be age appropriate)
- Turn off your phone and leave it in another room while helping with homework
- Go on a walk together
- Take them with you when you run errands and make it fun. (Remember, you are teaching your children how to be adults some day so making grocery shopping fun can be creating a budget together and sticking to it or asking your child to choose the vegetables or fruits to buy. Giving choices works here too!)
Do you have a child that cherishes every gift they’ve received? Does your child not ask for more things, but glows when you surprise them with a gift? Maybe your child takes the time to unwrap a gift they’re given? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child sees love and support through receiving gifts!
Your child may receive love and support best when they receive physical tokens that express your love to them. Receiving gifts does not mean your child only cares about the material object or that you should buy them things. It means that they cherish the fact that you spent time thinking about them and choosing a gift that would make them happy! Here are a few ways to support your child if they like knowing you are thinking about them:
- Create a chore chart with your child. (Put stickers or draw stars on the chart when they accomplish the chores. This can also work with homework, daily hygiene or whatever your hopes and expectations are for your children. Get creative, post it on the refrigerator or the wall and catch your child doing good things, then reward them with the sticker or star. Words are not necessary because if your child likes it when you spend time thinking about you (receiving gifts), they’ll notice the chart!
- Keep a treasure chest to surprise them with occasionally. (This could be a box, container, hope chest, whatever you have. Put baby pictures in there, a few current pictures that you want to treasure, art work, school projects/tests, a napkin or something with a logo on it that reminds you of a place you and your child went or a place you hope to take them some day)
- Leave a sweet note or pick a flower to put in their lunchbox
- Value any gift they give to you! (Whether it’s a drawing or a project, tell them how much you like it by hanging it up. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match your home decor, everyone will notice it and you will be able to proudly share that your child made it)
Acts of Service
Does your child like to ask for help when you are busy, even with things they know how to do on their own? Does your child like it when you make their lunch instead of telling them to eat the free lunch at school? Does your child get upset when you say you are listening, but you are on your phone or laptop? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child is at their best through acts of service, meaning actions are louder than words!
Your child may receive love and support best when they see you do what you say and you say what you mean. You do not have to do every request your child asks (as fostering self-reliance is important), but an occasional yes to their asks for help can go a long way. Here are a few ways to implement acts of service with your child:
- Even though you know your child can do something independently, if they ask, stop what you’re doing and help them. (As you are helping them, remember to praise and encourage throughout and say things like, “I know you could have done this yourself but I’m happy you want to do it together”. Comments like this will go a long way, especially as your children grow into teens and young adults. They’ll know you are a parent they can count on and who prioritizes them)
- When they accomplish something, make their favorite meal as a reward or take the time out of your busy schedule to show up and be present. (When your child invites you to something, show up. Put work and other priorities aside and show up for your kid. They will notice!)
- Teach your children life-work balance. (When you child does something great, like get a 100% on a test, reward them by giving them a day off from chores or step away from you busy schedule and bake a cake to celebrate together)
- Bring them snacks or water while they’re doing their homework. (Parents so often think homework time needs to be uninterrupted or their child will get distracted. Bringing in a snack or drink can be a silent act. Just think, one day you will be working at home completely focused and your child may bring you a snack or drink. How cool would that be?)
Does your child love to play with your hair or really like it when you brush their hair? Does your child ask to be held or cuddled? Does your child like to practically sit on your lap or as close as possible, even though you may think they are too old for cuddles or that much closeness? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child sees love and support through physical touch!
Your child may receive love and support best through affectionate, parental warmth! When we think of physical touch in relation to our children, most of us think about hugs and kisses. Here are a few ways to offer physical touch with your child:
- Cuddle and watch a movie together. (Add some popcorn for added fun)
- Give high fives or create a special handshake. (Children love special handshakes!)
- When you notice your child may be feeling sad or upset, ask your child if they need a hug. (If they say no, ask what they do need)
- Give hugs/kisses when they leave for school or to say goodnight (But remember, not all children like physical touch so don’t push it on them. Ask permission and if they say no, figure out which other way of showing love and support is best for your child. Also remember, not all children are alike. Some may like hugs and kisses and others may prefer quality time)
Remember, children are unique and their way of receiving love and support is unique to them. We encourage you to pay attention to how your child reacts when you show them different ways of love and support and then try out the different suggestions. If your children are old enough to have a conversation, share this blog with them and figure it out together.
No matter the way, Happy Valentine’s Day!
*To learn more about Dr. Gary Chapman’s love languages for children, please see his book, “The 5 Love Languages of Children“.
Kids’ Turn San Diego honors all military families and thanks you for your service!
Members and families of the United States military commit to serving our country, work long hours, and experience many moves and deployments. Whether this is your first time away, or your 10th, being away from home can put a strain on the family. Staying connected while away doesn’t have to be stressful!
In honor of Veteran’s Day and the Month of Military Family Appreciation, Kids’ Turn San Diego encourages all families to stay connected during times of separation. Here are some suggestions:
1. Create a realistic communication plan
Military service orders are sometimes vague, and the member will not know if communication via phone, text or internet will be possible. Instead of worrying about the details, create a plan with those at home for how they will communicate with the family member who is away.
Schedule a weekly family meeting time where each family member contributes to the Family Journal, a Family Memory Book, a Family Memory Box or a Family Poster. Whatever you choose, during your family meetings, each family member contributes by writing a note, drawing or adding a picture or tape/glue/place something about the week into the journal, book, box or poster.
This may seem silly but wait until your service member returns home! They will get to see everything they missed while away. What a great way to watch your children grow up and learn about all their adventures!
2. Have fun documenting memories and developmental milestones
Find a jar and decorate it with your children or by yourself if your children are too young. Then, whenever something exciting happens, write it down or have your children write it down or draw a picture. You can also slip pictures, crafts, and other items to share in your jar. Items in the jar could be shared during calls and then presented to the service member when they return home. Remind yourself and your children, your service member will need time to transition back into the family. Presenting the jar so they can check it out any time they are ready is a great way to help everyone transition back together.
3. Use the internet or your smart phone to stay connected
Create a shared iCloud account, Vimeo account or google drive where you can upload recorded videos and pictures. Document first walks, first words, and every moment that you love about your child. We all do this so why not share it! Uploading is easy, free, and can be quickly done through a smart phone or computer. As parents, we all take the pictures and save them to our phones. Take the extra step and share them on a shared drive or account so your service member gets to enjoy each video and picture as they are happening and when they are able to view them.
4. Write letters to stay connected
Sending letters is another way to keep in touch! If your little ones aren’t ready to write yet, you can have them draw pictures to mail. The great thing about snail mail is that you’ll have a physical reminder of each other’s love to hold onto!
Short notes or letters can be written by everyone, even the service member. Mail may be slow and could take a month to arrive, but so what! A written letter is a treasure, no matter when it arrives. Save them all! Children will feel important and loved when their parent returns home and pulls out all their letters and then when children show you all your letters, you’ll feel important and loved too. Being away doesn’t have to mean that you miss your children growing up, it just means you participate differently.
5. Keep relationships strong
For military families, it’s not just about the kids. The parents matter too! Stay connected with your spouse in creative ways. For example, the spouse at home could play your wedding song every month on the day you got married or look at your wedding pictures and then share the memory with their spouse during a phone call or text or write the memory in their Thinking About You Book (which could be a spiral notebook or composition book or a special journal you choose). For the spouse who is away, figure out something you’re able to do monthly on your wedding date and then tell your spouse about it during calls, emails, texts or in your Thinking About you Book. If you’re able to keep a Thinking About Your Book or Journal, great, if not, find a different way to share, even if that means sharing when you get home.
Since we know communication can be challenging when a service member is away, brainstorm creative ways to stay connected. Here’s another idea to try. Everyone sees the sky at night so maybe look at the stars on the same date each month and know that your spouse is also looking. This could bring comfort and connection.
In honor of Veterans Day, Kids’ Turn San Diego salutes all veterans, active duty and reserve service members and their families! Your contribution and sacrifice for our safety must be acknowledged and honored. We thank you all!
While risk can’t be avoided completely, we can take steps to ensure we are minimizing risk as much as possible. Here are some ideas for fun and safe alternatives to trick-or-treating:
- Hide Halloween candy or small treats around your home or backyard and send kids on a Halloween candy hunt!
- Start a new family tradition of having a spooky Halloween dinner together. Have kids get involved in cooking or setting the table as appropriate.
- Carve or decorate pumpkins with friends or neighbors at a safe distance outside, and show off your creative designs.
- Get crafty with your kids and create fun and festive Halloween decorations for your home.
- Host a virtual costume contest with other families or relatives so kids can show off their costumes!
- Create a scavenger hunt for Halloween- or fall-themed items around your neighborhood. Walk around as a family and point out fun decorations or pretty fall leaves.
- Queue up a Halloween movie night at home. Make it special with themed snacks and drinks, or build a comfy fort together with blankets and pillows.
If you do decide to go trick-or-treating, it is important to avoid going door-to-door to multiple households, where it can be difficult to socially distance and the risk of exposure is higher. Instead, limit your area to a friend’s house or other small, familiar area to stay safer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress the importance of wearing protective masks whenever you are in the presence of others. When trick-or-treating, ensure that everyone in the family is wearing a cloth or surgical mask (not just a costume mask). Do not have children wear a costume mask over a cloth or surgical mask as this can make it hard for them to breathe.
After returning home from trick-or-treating, have the entire family wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds and lay out collected candy on a clean surface for a few hours to allow time for any virus on the candy to die.
From all of us at Kids’ Turn San Diego, we wish you a fun and safe Halloween!
Source: Kaiser Permanente