As the parent of a teenager, life is full of ups and downs. To say this is a great undertaking may be an understatement! At times your teen may make you the proudest parent on Earth. At other times, they are testing boundaries and actively challenging the rules. You may also have extended family members in your life. Those family members can be a huge source of support. You may rely on them for help with transportation to school events, doctor’s appointments, and to help out so you can go on date nights with your spouse. Those same family members may give advice you disagree with or try to tell you how to raise your teen.
I was recently talking with a friend about her in-laws. She shared with me that they are constantly criticizing her parenting techniques and telling her everything she needs to improve. I’ve had parents of my patients tell me that their own siblings (teen’s aunt or uncle) have told them they shouldn’t stop buying fast food, or that there’s no need to avoid eating an entire birthday cake.
So what can be done?
First, most family members are giving advice because they care about your teen. Thank them for their support and encourage them to keep mentioning the positive things your teen is doing. If you truly disagree with what they are saying, it is always ok to consult an expert. For example, if your teen is seeing a nutritionist for weight management, invite the family member to come to a visit with you. This will provide some insight into why you are making different choices than what they recommend.
Next, if they are continuing to disagree, set boundaries. Thank them for caring about your teen, and let them know you appreciate their support in other aspects, but for this issue, you disagree. While they may not like the boundaries, you are the one who is leading your household, so it is fair to set them.
Finally, remember that they love you and your teen. Most of the time unsolicited advice is not meant to hurt feelings, but to help. If the disagreements are happening frequently, enlist help. Talk with your teen’s doctor about ideas for setting boundaries. Sometimes family counseling can help as well.