While your teen probably spends more time nagging you for the latest techno-toys than for your affection and attention, gadgets and gizmos aren’t going to make him happy deep down. Be an active participant in your teen’s life, letting him know that what matters to him is important to you, too, and help him build the confidence and skill set he’ll require for a happy adolescence and success throughout his adult life.
Converse and Commune
While your outgoing fourth-grader was more talkative than your less-than-forthcoming high schooler, keep him talking right through his teen years, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthychildren.org website. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can help your teen work through difficult issues and maintain a healthy and happy parent/teen relationship. Incorporate family activities into your weekly schedule, dine together every evening and be available any time he wants to talk -- whether it's about a new pair of jeans or conflict with a new kid at school. Remember to be a nonjudgmental listener or your teen will clam up quickly, and be his sounding board whenever he needs one to help him hone his problem-solving skills.
Pride and Confidence
It’s normal for your child to feel a bit self-conscious during the teen years, but a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence can result in extreme social awkwardness, poor academic performance and even isolation -- a definite negative, because peer relationships are intricately important during this phase of your child’s development. Start early by praising your child for his effort, accepting him just as he is and providing plenty of opportunities for him to excel and feel proud of his accomplishments. You can enroll your teen in extracurricular activities, sign up together for volunteer work and show him how to save money and work toward financial goals -- an important foundation for budgeting skills through his adult life.
Arguments and Autonomy
Not so long ago, your child was happy to follow your instructions and trust that you knew what was best. Now that your teenager is striving toward independence, resisting your rules and limitations, you can contribute to his happiness by providing him with the opportunity to call the shots -- at least a few. Don’t quibble over the small stuff -- wearing black nail polish won’t stain his nails permanently and his music choices are unlikely to damage his development. Save the arguments for the big stuff, like unchaperoned parties and drug experimentation, and allow your teen to feel in control of some aspects of his life. It provides him with a sense of autonomy and teaches him how to make smart decisions for his teen years and beyond, says the Greater Good Science Center’s website.
Warning and Caution
The teen years are fraught with hormones and emotions; a little temper, defiance and melodrama is normal. However, the overwhelming pressures of adolescence can lead to mental health disorders, explains Healthychildren.org. Help safeguard your teen’s happiness by watching for warning signs of disorders ranging from depression and drug abuse to eating disorders. Changes in your teen's sleeping patterns, unprovoked crying episodes, sudden weight loss or gain, extreme body consciousness and a withdrawal from his peer group are common signs of depression, while extreme anger and excessive sleeping can indicate a potential drug abuse problem, advises the Healthychildren.org website. Consult your health care provider if you have any concerns about your teen’s mental or emotional well-being.