Nobody provides a manual for parenting teens with anxiety, depression, mental health struggles, or emotional trauma. The truth is that you don’t need a manual. You just need to be open to trying whatever it takes to make your kids feel safe and loved. Start with these 25 parenting tips for nurturing a positive environment in your home.
1. Remember: Comparison Is the Thief of Joy
Constantly comparing your child’s benchmarks and achievements to what other people their age are doing creates a feeling of “never being good enough.” It also sets children and teens up to constantly compare themselves to others. While celebrating the achievements of others is healthy, making it a comparison game is dangerous!
2. Consider Natural Consequences
Consider using natural consequences instead of punishments. Was a vase broken? Sending them to their room is a punishment. Asking the child to work toward replacing the vase is a natural consequence. In addition to teaching kids responsibility, this approach also shows them that they do have the power to “right a wrong” when they make a mistake. You can still be a positive, gentle parent even if you’re not interested in letting your child “off the hook” when they do something wrong.
3. Give Praise Freely
Don’t make praise something you withhold until something is done perfectly. Give praise throughout the process! In fact, praising effort can provide great encouragement when a child is trying something new.
4. Teach Your Kids How to Get Rid of Clutter
As adults, we know how physical clutter can lead to mental clutter. Begin teaching your kids some anti-clutter principles that will help them keep their living spaces neat for better clarity of mind.
5. Don’t Hide Your Own Failures
Next, model a healthy response of trying again in the face of failure. You don’t have to give off a superhuman impression for your kids. Letting them know when you fail at something that you’re trying will give them permission to “fail” without shame.
6. Don’t Get Mad Every Time They Tell You Something You Don’t Want to Hear
When children share “bad” information with you, their brains are taking stock of how you react. If you become angry at them because they are sharing information about their lives, friends, or school that you don’t like, they will avoid doing this again in the future. This creates a habit of “keeping secrets.” When your child shares information you don’t like, do your best to give a calm response without “blowing up.”
7. Let Them Decorate Their Own Room
Kids can feel like they have control over so little in their lives. One of the easiest gifts parents can give their kids is free reign over decorating their bedrooms. While this may seem like a simple thing, the truth is that living in a room that expresses who they are allows kids to feel more comfortable.
8. Ask for Help
Stop thinking you’re only a “good parent” if you have all the answers. Part of supporting your child is getting the support you need to parent them the best way possible. If your child is struggling with anxiety or depression, seeking professional help to get the right tools is so important for building a stronger relationship.
9. Ask Them What They Need
Parents often think they are supposed to have all the answers. In reality, asking your child what they need from you can be crucial for fulfilling their needs. Your child may be waiting for you to ask!
10. Develop Ground Rules
There’s nothing wrong with setting some household rules and expectations. In fact, children appreciate knowing where the boundaries are in a household. Setting expectations is not the same thing as being punitive. It instead allows children to participate in the household in a respectful way based on the needs of others.
11. Communicate “Their Way”
Most kids are doing most of their communication these days digitally. While you may think that living in the same house gives you plenty of opportunities to talk, your child may feel more comfortable sharing some things with you over text. Check in with quick “I love you” texts throughout the day to open the communication lines.
12. Don’t Compare Their Traits to Others
Have you ever pointed out to your child that they share negative personality traits with a father, grandmother, cousin, or some other family member? An example would be telling a child that they are “stubborn like their father.” Being compared to others when you’re simply trying to express yourself can feel very dismissive for a child. View all of their actions and emotions as unique things that belong to them alone.
13. Just Turn on a Movie Instead
Have trouble resolving an argument? Decide to stop going back and forth. Ask your child if they’d like to sit and watch a movie with you instead. It’s a great way to diffuse tension while giving you both some much-needed relaxation.
14. Make Good Time Management a Family Affair
Much of the frustration in a busy household has to do with lack of time. Sit down with your kids to make a plan for how to manage time wisely to squeeze the most out of every day as a family. This might mean asking your kids to prioritize getting homework done early to leave more time for family at night.
15. Have Honest Conversations About Screen Time
Is screen time getting a little out of control at your house? Provide your kids with some science-backed information on how excessive screen time may be impacting their moods. This can help them see that you’re not taking screens away to “punish” them.
16. Eat Dinner Together
The research is clear that eating together as a family is great for a child’s mental health. We recommend trying a “teen takeover” dinner night once a week. Let your teen plan the menu and help them prepare the meal. This will help your teen learn new skills, be more confident in the kitchen, and give them a chance to have control over what they eat.
17. Banish the Blame Game
When things go wrong in your household, avoid blaming any one person in favor of working together to identify the root cause of what isn’t working.
18. Give Kids a Choice About the Activities They Do
Are you eager to sign your child up for a sport or activity? Create a list of between five and ten options that you’re willing to pay for to allow your child to pick one.
19. Ask for Respect
Remember that you have every right to ask your child to respect you! It’s not healthy for parents to become doormats. If your teen has disrespected you, don’t ignore it. Stay calm and simply let your teen know that disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated. Use it as a teachable moment to help them understand why it’s important to respect others.
20. Know Your Own Triggers
Do the work to understand what triggers feelings of anger, shame, vulnerability, or depression in your own life. This will help you stay in control when your child pushes those triggers.
21. Create a Family Mantra
It can be so fun and empowering to create a shared mantra for your family to live by! Say it together before you walk out the door in the morning.
22. Let Them Know If You’re Monitoring Internet Usage
There’s no need to keep it a secret if you’re monitoring Internet activity. A child can feel violated and mistrustful for years if they discover they are being monitored in secret.
23. See Misbehavior as a Plea for Help Instead of a Malicious Act
A child who is acting out is often hurting. What’s more, they want you to know that they’re hurting. While you shouldn’t let bad behavior slide, it’s essential to understand your child’s intention instead of assuming the worst.
24. Don’t Complain About Them to Other Adults
The experience of having your parents “complain” about you to other adults is humiliating. The same goes for posting negative things about a child on social media. If you need to vent, find a trusted friend you can talk with confidentially without your child hearing the conversation.
25. Admit That You Don’t Have the Answer
If your child is struggling with mental health issues, there may be tough realities they are facing. It’s okay to let them know that this is all new for you! Go on the journey of finding the answers with them instead of pretending to have all of the answers already.