How Can Parents Improve Teenage Relationships?

I wanted to share this “advice you would give to parents” by Maggie Sutton, who is currently a senior at Sammamish High School. I thought it was so well-said and well-written I wanted to pass on her wisdom.

Maggie shares some of the things that helped her when she was getting through a very stressful high school experience.

What I loved is that she admits that she is barely a legal adult and doesn’t yet know everything about how the world works, but I think it is so helpful for parents of high schoolers to hear a teenager’s perspective.

Here is what Maggie hopes parents will keep in mind:

1. Grades should never be put before mental health. I cannot stress how important it is to be as mentally stable as possible through high school, and telling us that grades are the end-all be-all is only going to end worse than you hoped. Instead, find out what motivates your student and use positive reinforcement. And please, please do not force your kid to take standardized tests if they have the option not to. You can get those credits elsewhere!

2. Instead of punishing us, use patience and empathy to teach us. When we screw up (which we will), the only way to get us to learn is to acknowledge our emotions and help us heal from the experience without telling us what we did was okay (if it’s harming others). Mistakes are natural, especially if you’re a teenager, and the only way to improve is to be given the chance to mess up in a healthy way. Punishing us gets you and I nowhere.

3. Accept that your child’s identity is changing like mad. Don’t invalidate your student by telling them they should be a certain way, or that they’re weird if they don’t follow the standard— just don’t make your child feel bad for being themselves. Most of the time we’re just trying to figure out what’s going on in our heads, and that’s hard.

4. Listen to us and treat our emotions like we’re adults. We might be young, but we feel things incredibly deeply, and even if something seems trivial to you, it might be a big deal to us. Hear us out and talk through things with us, and don’t get angry if we say something you don’t like. We will figure it out and apologize if something genuinely crossed the line, and most of us really need your support.

5. Don’t punish us by removing social connections. I cannot begin to explain how harmful it is for a teenager to not be able to contact friends in times of stress. You will always make the situation worse by isolating your teen from their friends, and you may give them lasting trauma if you do this too often. It’s scary, it’s horrible, and it’s not fun for anyone involved. Don’t take our only connections to our friends. Instead, talk to us about what’s going on. Please.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how parents can help their high school students!

Did anything surprise you? Please share in the comments below…


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