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When it comes to parenting teenagers, it's important they have five things from their parents, according to a local mental health expert. 

The first thing Terry Warburton, the Clinical Director of Recovery of Hope Counselling in Winnipeg says teens need is to be invited and affirmed for who they are becoming. 

"They are not younger versions of adults but are still in the process of maturing and becoming. In fact, it is the developmental task of teens to become their own person. When they do this, they examine and evaluate everything around them so they can become themselves, not a carbon copy of someone else. One of the best ways we can support that process for them to take a deep and sincere interest in their thoughts, feelings and opinions, and draw them out with open-ended questions, even if we don’t agree with them," says Warburton.

The second thing teenagers need with all the emotions they experience with puberty is for parents to normalize their sadness. 

"Part of the development process happening for teens is that their emotional system is developing and maturing. Feelings can become more intense during this time. Adolescence is a time of huge transition and change, including many endings and beginnings. Sadness is an expected feeling when that happens."

From Warburton's experience, teenagers can experience a lot of sadness in this transitional time. 

"We can normalize this and help them to see that it is okay to feel sad. This sadness comes from coping with big transitions and changes. It is not a depression that needs to be treated, but rather it is a feeling that needs to be felt and expressed.

The third thing that helps teenagers growing into adulthood is when parents allow room for self-reflection.

"All of this growth and change that is happening during adolescence means that teens are doing a lot of thinking and evaluating - of themselves, of others, of their world, their values. We definitely want to encourage our kids to reflect! Self-reflection is such a key part of the maturation process. As parents, we need to work really hard to not get in the way of this but rather support it by providing our teens with ways to express themselves."

Some ways parents can encourage this process is by offering journals and time to write and draw in them. If parents notice a creative skill their adolescent has, encouraging time in music, dance, or art can also help this process.

"Teens are full of idealism and it’s a beautiful thing. But idealism can get quickly shattered as one experiences the ups and downs and heartbreaks and big disappointments of life."

The fourth thing parents can gift their teenagers is to allow them to experience disillusionment.

"We must let them make their own mistakes, as hard as this is to watch. We must let our kids take the steering wheel of their own life. This doesn’t mean that we back out of their lives though. We must stay emotionally connected to them, sensitively bringing perspective and experience while also giving them space to be themselves."

Lastly, parents need to be filled with patience when communicating with their teenagers. 

 

"The growth, development, and maturity that we yearn and pray for in our kids all take time to unfold. The must not take this personally but communicate that we love them and are there for them no matter what. If we are frustrated or alarmed by what we are seeing in our kids, try to imagine what it is like for them to live with all of this happening in them! True growth and development takes time and patience," says Warburton. 

This material was originally provided by Warburton's colleague at Recovery of Hope, Dr. Deborah MacNamara.