What Teens Need to Hear From Parents

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Raising a teenager is a time of letting go, enforcing rules, strengthening boundaries and also nurturing. Teens may appear to be fighting against us at times — rebelling from our rules, pointing out our inadequacies and telling us “how out of it we are,” but they also still love and need us.


There are certain things teenagers really need to hear from their parents. And while parents can’t say these things when it’s most apropos, they can say them at night when their child is relaxed and going to sleep. There’s less resistance just before bedtime, and teens will remember what their parents said and will reflect on it when least expected.


Here are some positive things to say during your child’s teen years:


• No one will ever love you in the same way or have your best interests at heart more than your mom/dad and I will.


• You have so many gifts and options; I will help you capitalize on them as best I can.


• How can I help you reach your dreams?


• No matter what you confide in me, I will always love you and do what is best for you.


• You are an integral part of this family, and the family needs you.


• My job is not to be your buddy; I am your parent and will love and mentor you.


• It’s OK to mess up; I do it all the time.


• I am sorry. (Say this whenever you hurt your child, or your child is in pain from something someone else said.)


• I admire you more than you can ever understand or know.


• I am sorry you don’t like my rules, but you will have to abide by them. I will hold you accountable if you break them, and there will be a consequence.


• I embrace your friends, but I love you the most.


• I don’t care what your friends get to do. I am not their parent; I am yours and you are my main responsibility and concern.


• If you are in trouble, call me first, no matter where you are. I may be angry, but my first concern will always be your safety. We will talk about punishment or consequences later.


• If you get in trouble at school, be honest with me. Your teacher is the authority at school, and if I hear it from your teacher before I hear it from you, I will feel betrayed or deceived. I may react to this breach of trust.


• From the first time I saw your eyes, I vowed to be the best parent I could be for you. I make mistakes but they are not meant to hurt you. I make them because I love you so much and get scared sometimes. It is hard parenting a teen (your child will understand this confession).


Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of “Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever.” Visit www.maryjorapini.com.