How to create a harmonious home with teenagers

RACHEL DOHERTY

Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

It’s every parent’s dream to have a peaceful home with teenagers. So lets talk about how to create harmony when there’s so many hormones running around.

What are the hallmarks of a peaceful home? Is it even too much to ask that a house with teenagers can be harmonious?

There’s a stereotype that teenagers are noisy and selfish. That living with them involves too much foot stamping, yelling and slammed doors.

But life doesn’t need to be like that. We’re all entitled to have a safe place to retreat to when life gets busy and our feelings get frayed. That’s where my concept of a safe harbour comes in.

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”

MOTHER TERESA

Creating a safe harbour

If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’ll know that I believe in the family home being a safe harbour.

Life can be a bit like heading out to sea. Some days we have smooth sailing and others we face rough seas and wild winds. All boats need a safe harbour to return to, where they can seek refuge from the worst storms and make repairs.

Our homes should be the same, both for kids and parents.

It should be a place where you can hide away, or connect with people who love you no matter what. For kids it can be a place to let your emotions out knowing you can get away with it. You don’t have to behave at home as you should in public.

Is your house a safe harbour? You’ll know you have one if your kids like spending time at home. And you too. If there’s not much nagging or complaining.

A safe harbour is one where other people are sensitive to your needs and give you a hand or some space when needed.

But having a safe harbour is only part of creating a harmonious home. If people feel they can be themselves without thinking about how that impacts on others, you could still end up with a lot of arguing, slammed doors and eye rolling. That’s when you have to put some boundaries in place to help everyone get along. You have to be the harbour master.

How to create a harmonious home

If your house doesn’t look like a safe harbour, then try these steps to start moving in the right direction:

1. Set some fair house rules

By the time your kids are teenagers, you can expect them to behave like they live in a share house. They might not live up to those expectations all the time, but you should be aiming for that.

Set some rules for how everyone should live in your house that’s respectful and helps keep the place running smoothly. Hold yourself accountable for these rules, just as much as your teens.

You can read more about how to move towards more respectful relationships and a shared house arrangement in my article on raising great teenagers.

2. Give everyone space

When I think of the share houses that worked best for me, they had both public and private spaces. There were areas you could go to be noisy and join in the revelry, but there was also your own room to retreat to when it all got too much.

A home with teenagers will be more harmonious if they feel they have some choice about joining in or retreating.

You can still have times when they’re expected to join in, like having dinner together or a family night. But make sure you’re not setting up life on a timetable so that it feels like they’re at boarding school.

3. Deal with self-centred behaviour

You should be able to put your own needs first in a home that feels like a safe harbour, while still being a contributor. Set life up in your home so that everyone has an equal responsibility and an equal voice.

By the time your kids are in their last years of school, there aren’t many decisions they can’t at least have an opinion on.

To read more about dealing with a selfish attitude, have a look at my article on reining in self-centred teens.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” – Confucius

4. Play favourites

I used to think it’s bad to have a favourite child, but I’ve discovered how hard this is to do. The trick is to favour kids fairly. My daughter and I love watching The Block together, we’ll be in mourning when the season finishes next week. My husband like going to boot camp with one of our boys and playing basketball with the other.

It’s all about knowing your kids well and connecting with them in ways that are meaningful to them.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

It’s easy to get frustrated when there are lots of people coming and going from your house. Life is just as busy with teenagers as it is with younger children. Washing, cooking, after school drop offs and everything else.

Don’t let everything be a battle. Be wise in what fights you pick; focus on issues that relate to your house rules or values.

6. Let others be the “bad  cop”

Teenagers spend a lot of time testing the boundaries and working out which rules need following. We don’t do our kids any favours if we step in and make excuses or bail them out.

Where you can, let other people be the enforcers. That might be the school, a neighbour or the police. I’m not saying you should let your kids get away with bad behaviour! It’s about letting them learn about boundaries in life, not protecting them.

7. Treat your kids with respect

Harmony comes when people feel they are on an equal footing with everyone else in the house. Give and expect respect. Our kids tend to live up to our expectations.

If you’re looking for ideas on how life with teenagers should be, look at my article that debunks the myths of adolescence.

Life with teenagers is dramatic. Don’t mistake this picture of harmony for some sort of retirement village of tranquility! But life with teenagers doesn’t have to be without it’s moments of peace and joy. Just get these basics in place, follow your own rules and give as good as you get.

What works for you in keeping the peace at home? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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