It can be hard to know how to setup healthy boundaries with your teen. You don’t want to invade their space, but you want to make sure they are safe. We get this question a lot in therapy. How do I setup healthy boundaries for my teen, respect their boundaries, but stay connected to them?

Respecting their privacy/space

Teens prefer to have time and space either alone or with friends. Parents can be on the lookout for opportunities to engage with their teenager.  Oftentimes, these are late at night or when you least expect it. Practice asking open ended questions and limit questions right after school. Be open and honest (within reason) regarding your teenage years, this will help build trust between you and your teen. Get to know your teen’s friends. Invite them over and cook a meal, order pizza, or make brownies. A creative parent can engage with teenagers while still maintaining the desired privacy of a teenager’s world.

Influence in decision making

Adolescents are in the process of maturing and becoming independent. Creating opportunities for teens to participate in decision making will help shape their critical thinking skills, build rapport between parent and teen, and demonstrate respect within the relationship.

Example: discussion of curfew in high school years. Make list of pros and cons regarding proposed times. Evaluate options and make a plan. Possibly allow for extended curfew on special occasions/improved grades/respectful attitude among family members. Ongoing communication is key!

Establishing healthy boundaries during the teen years takes practice and requires much patience. Expect there to be ups and downs, be willing to make changes as needed, and know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Parents that choose to hold their teens accountable within a loving environment foster responsibility and resilience.

Withdrawn vs typical teen behavior

Teenagers often display big feelings and reactions! What is considered normal? When do we need to seek help from a therapist who specializes in adolescents? It is normal for teenagers to sleep more, make poor choices in eating habits, display “moody” behavior, and at times turn your world upside down. Watching for changes in these normal adolescent behaviors can help parents identify when it might be time to seek help. The adolescent brain is working in overtime as transformation is taking place and studies show half of all genetic mental disorders begin to develop by age 14.

Here is what anxiety/depression can look like:

Overall disruption within family dynamics
Changes in friend groups/having no plans with friends
Withdrawn more than usual
Not turning in assignments/drop in overall grades
Changes in eating habits
Sleeping more than normal or not being able to fall or stay asleep
Angry outbursts over small matters

If your teenager is exhibiting any of these signs and your gut tells you something seems “off” it is time to find support. Normal adolescent behavior vs. possible signs of a mood disorder can be determined by a mental health therapist. Working alongside families with teenagers, meeting with teens on an individual basis, and providing additional education and resources is something I am passionate about. Reach out today for afternoon and evening sessions.

 Written by: Morgan Myers
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