Okay, so maybe you don't have to say these exact statements every single day, but it is very important to get in the habit of saying positive things and making conversations with your teens. As children become adolescents they are naturally exploring their independence and beginning to become more and more self sufficient. They might come across as not needing anything, or not wanting to sit around and chat with adults. By this time in their lives they are developing friendships that can start to take the place of their need to go to an adult to handle a situation. We have to respect that because it is a healthy part of growth and development, but we must also remember that, whether the express it or not, teens still need guidance from adults in their lives.
When I see kinds in my office for counseling, you would be amazed at how many of them are craving this kind of attention from the adults in their lives- parents, step parents, teachers, etc.. Often they admit that they are sometimes moody, disrespectful, and distant, yet they still say that they need this kind of attention and relationship. We have to be careful not to take their moods and reactions at face value. Regardless of how they are acting, teens still need supportive adults in their lives to continue to grow.
Here are some things that are helpful to say to teens. Obviously, canned quotes may seem a little forced or disingenuous. These are to be used more as a framework for the types of things that teens really need to hear from not only their parents, but teachers and other adults in their lives.
1. "Good morning"
Schedules can get really conflicting as teens begin to enter high school and start working part time jobs. Parents may not always have the opportunity to see their child in the mornings. It is still so important to make as much effort as possible to communicate with your child at the beginning of the day. If they catch the bus earlier than you wake up, you can leave a short small note out for them in the mornings. If you leave the house before they do, you can send them a quick text to brighten their day. (This can also be helpful as an alarm for kids who like to sleep in and miss the bus)
2. "Thank You"
Teens can be difficult. They are moody and disrespectful at times and there are certainly instances where they don't do things that they are supposed to. (They are notorious for not taking our the trash, not unloading the dishwasher, etc.) It is easy to let those things shape our interactions with them. Sure, those things need to be addressed, but there is also something that they did that day that is worth a "Thank You". If you look for the "Thank Yous", however small they may be, you will not only be helping them feel better about themselves, it will probably take your mind off all the things that they are doing wrong.
3. "Is there anything I need to do anything for you today?"
I put this on here because my students are notorious for forgetting to get things signed or filled out. Nine times out of ten, it then creates an argument with their parents because it was the teens responsibility to get it signed. Yes. It is totally their responsibility to get things signed and they need to learn that lesson. But if you want to avoid any arguments and make sure that they get what they need, a simple reminder in the mornings never hurts. Asking this question can help the teen recall if they need papers and forms signed, but it also might help them remind you that you are supposed to make a doctors appointment for them. It might also give them a chance to ask for things that are slightly embarrassing (ie. needing to go to the doctor)
4. "I hope you have a good day"
As soon as my students step off the bus, I can tell which kids had arguments at home that morning. We are a small school so I know all of my students pretty well. I've even gotten to the point that I can tell when someone may get in a fight or get in trouble. Morning fights in school are often caused by 2 things- conflict with family or conflict with peers on the bus. Most of the time, its family.
Families are going to argue. Teens are going to sleep late and miss the bus, typically resulting in some sort of argument. These things are normal. Arguing is fine to some extent because it is a natural expression of feelings. However, morning arguments need to be resolved at least to the point of putting it on hold for the rest of the day. Choose to close up an argument before your teen gets to school. No one needs to drag that stuff with them throughout the day. It will help you out too.
5. "I care about you"
Teens need to know that they are cared about it and they can't really hear it enough. If I had a penny for every time a teen has said "Nobody cares about me" I would be very well off. The fact is, they may say these things regardless of how much you instill that you love and care for them. However, that doesn't mean that we should stop articulating our love and affection on a daily basis. You can't take it personal when a teen says that they don't feel loved and supported. You just have to chalk it up to their teenage thinking patterns which are often very concrete and catastrophic. There has never been a wasted "I love you"
6. "I appreciate you"
Teens need to hear that you appreciate them. This goes along with being thankful. They need to know that they are a vital part of their family and/or learning environment. Because teens tend to be so self-critical, we need to boost their esteem by reminding them of the ways that they do contribute. Try this out everyday for a week or so and watch how much they start to perk up and participate even more.
7. "How was your day?"
Even if they don't want to talk about it, which happens, it is still important for them to know you care about their day. If they choose not to answer, don't get mad or take it personally, just move on and remember that you have done your part by simply asking the question. You are not responsible for their feelings or responses.
8. "How are things going with _______________?"
Repeating things is huge in building relationships. I repeat. Repeating things is huge in building relationships. Remember key points about things that they tell or you names of their friends. Nothing feels better than to hear someone ask us about something that we previously discussed with them. It shows that you were actively listening and that you care about the details of their lives. You will be amazed at how much impact asking this one little question can have on your relationship with your teen.
9. "I'm proud of you"
In their world of low self esteem and self doubt, it is so important that teens know that someone out there is proud of them. Teens are developing a sense of self determination and beginning to make their own decisions. With this comes the fear of not being successful or making mistakes. Their concrete thinking patterns make this worse and often result in them feeling bad about themselves. They might be growing up and becoming adults, but they still need some cheerleaders in their corner along the way.
I once heard someone say "You shouldn't go to bed angry". Generally speaking, this is a pretty good concept. That does not mean that you have to be on the same page and it doesn't mean that they are still not in trouble, but making sure to tie things up and say goodnight before they go to sleep is important. Teens need more sleep than most and tend to get the least sleep of all age groups. We can do our best to at least make sure that their mind is at rest and they know that they are loved so that they and reap the rewards of what little sleep they do get.
If you liked this article, you may also like to check out 10 Things You Should Never Say to Teens