During times of transitions, such as a divorce, loss of a job, or major health issues, parent can unintentionally become disconnected from their teens. Even though this might be a trying time, parents are encouraged to monitor their peer relationships, promote time with family, and keep the conversation going regarding family norms, rules and expectations. Don’t allow adult issues to interrupt your role in your teen’s life. There must be a balance whereas parents validate the importance of peer relationships, yet stay connected within the family.

Teens need Peers

For teens, having peers they can relate to, talk with, and share a bond with is one of the most important aspects of their lives. Demographics, class, or culture doesn’t outweigh their need to be close to individuals in their age range. When times get tough, they gravitate to their peers even more. This isn’t to say that parental guidance should be discouraged; in fact, parents should monitor closely these interactions when teens are facing difficult times. If your teen is dating during transitions within the home, parents are encouraged to pay very close attention to that relationship. Often times teens can be persuaded, pressured, or guilted into adapting, and relationships can turn into a false substitute of what they miss at home. This is unhealthy and can lead to other detrimental behaviors.

Boundaries

Some ways to keep the connection, teach boundaries and set boundaries for your teen. Even though their peers are probably the most important relationship during this time of development, or transition, parents must set perimeters. Enforce curfews, discuss with teens local hangout areas and know the rules for this establishment such as clientele, hours, and behaviors. Meet the parents of your teens friends and commit to doing family activities at least every other month or more if time permits. Reinforce and be consistent with family time. Teach your teen that they can say no when they have plans with their family.  Set times when they can hang with peers. If you don’t set the time, your teen will learn that time management isn’t important. Hanging out for a few hours can turn into inappropriate time frames that could interfere with school, responsibilities at home, and the parent teen relationship.  Under no circumstance should parents encourage teens that family time should take the back seat to peer relationships.  At no time should parents encourage teens to substitute peer relationships for what they may be missing at home.

Now what?

Remember, the key is balance. Teens should be encouraged to have healthy relationships with their peers, but never at the cost of family connection. Even when there is a transition, parents are encouraged to continue with patterns familiar to their teen. Join me at TNT, a group to learn ways of balancing the need for peer relationships with quality family time. Tuesdays, we teach parents and then Saturdays, we work with teens. This way, the whole family learns the skills from classes focused on their concerns and how they learn. Schedule an intake with me online or call 940-222-8703.

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Jeannine M. Gambles, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist- Associate

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