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Titanic: What Jack & Rose Can Teach Us About Parenting Teens and Tweens

parenting Feb 25, 2023
parenting teens and tweens

Parenting today's teens and tweens can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. As your child enters their teenage years, they begin to navigate a complex and ever-changing world, and adolescence has many more challenges these days. As a parent, it can be tough to keep up with the latest trends and issues affecting teenagers, and I think this along with all the hormones raging that puberty brings to the household, it creates a lot of anxiety for parents - whether you're aware of it or not. To make the most of your parenting journey, it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest teenage parenting tips and to manage or understand your own anxiety.

Parenting teenagers and raising tweens can be compared to the movie Titanic where some days feel like everything is going smoothly, while others are like a disaster movie. I'm a family systems therapist, and I'm going to share five tips to help parents handle the tumultuous ups and downs of parenting teens based on the movie Titanic! This is based on a parenting group I used to run while I was the Clinical Director of an adolescent treatment center for mental health and recovery. It's a fun way to explore anxiety and five valuable lessons that can be learned from the movie.



How can parents best engage in meaningful conversations with their teens and tweens?

1. Stay Calm

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, chaos ensued, and people were losing their minds. However, those who stayed calm were the ones who survived. Jack and Rose had a fair amount of anxiety trying to get off the ship, but they did not let their anxiety get in the way of their relationship. Anxiety is a natural response to stress, and it is useful from an evolutionary perspective because it heightens our senses and gives us an adrenaline boost.

However, if it is the only response that we have, it becomes maladaptive and ultimately not helpful. Anxiety is also infectious, and it spreads around the whole family. When anxiety spreads, it shuts communication down, and teenagers need to know that they can come to their parents with anything without feeling judged or punished.

The question to ask is, do you want to be more like the iceberg or more like Jack? Because anxiety can take down the Titanic or it can get Rose to an emotionally safe lifeboat.

Engaging in meaningful conversations with teens and tweens can be mentally challenging, but it’s a crucial part of parenting. The best way to start is to show genuine interest in their lives and opinions. Ask questions about their day, interests, and experiences and really listen to their answers. Make sure to give your teen space to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Validate their experiences, even if you disagree with their opinions.

Another great way to engage in meaningful conversations is to share stories and experiences from your own life. Showing your teen how you’ve dealt with similar situations can help them understand their own feelings and experiences. It can also help your teen feel more connected to you and create an environment of trust and understanding.

Finally, be sure to set aside regular time to just talk. Teens and tweens are often busy with school and extracurricular activities, so make sure to make quality time a priority. Even if it’s just a few minutes each night, it can make a big difference in creating an open and honest relationship with your teen.

How can parents help their teens and tweens manage stress?

2. Be Aware

The captain of the Titanic did not see the iceberg coming until it was too late. This is an excellent reminder that we all have to be aware of what is going on in our teenagers' environment, particularly what goes on outside the household. Jack had an uncanny awareness of every corner and passage in the Titanic, and he seemed to know the entire landscape of the boat.

We need to be aware of what is going on in the lives of our teenagers without impeding too much on their independence. It does not mean being too involved in everything they do, or becoming a control freak -but it means being present and aware. Parents should ask themselves questions like

- Who are their friends?

- What do they like to do outside of the home?

- Who are they talking to online?

-What do they share on social media?

How Can Parents Best Support Their Teens and Tweens?

3. Stick With The Lifenboat

It's important to take care of yourself as a parent. The passengers on the Titanic were so focused on survival that they didn't prioritize their own well-being, which ultimately led to many tragic losses. As a parent, you can't take care of your teen if you're not taking care of yourself. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. And don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

What strategies can parents use to maintain positive communication with teens and tweens?

As a parent of a teen or tween, it can be challenging to maintain positive communication, especially during times of disagreement or conflict. Here are some tips to help you foster a positive, healthy relationship with your child:

4. Don't Drop The Anchor

The Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship of its time, but it still wasn't unsinkable. And as parents, it's important to remember that even the most well-planned strategies may need to be adjusted. Your teenager is growing and changing every day, and you'll need to adapt to their changing needs and behaviors. This may mean adjusting your parenting style or finding new ways to connect with your teen. Be flexible and willing to try new things, and remember that it's okay to make mistakes along the way.

1. Make sure to be available and approachable. Speak with your teen or tween in a non-judgmental, respectful way. Listen carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

2. Set clear expectations for behavior and communication. Be consistent with your expectations and provide sufficient explanation for why you expect certain things from your child.

3. Take time to appreciate your teen or tween. Let them know that you notice their hard work and achievements.

4. Show that you value their thoughts and feelings. Express interest in their opinions and be open to exploring their ideas.

5. Set limits and maintain boundaries. Be firm on your decisions and stay consistent.

6. Refrain from using negative language. Avoid making your child feel criticized or ashamed.

By following these strategies, you can maintain positive communication with your teen or tween and help foster a healthy relationship.


What Are Some Of The Common Problems Teens and Parents Face?

5. Iceberg Behavior

Just like Jack knew how the Titanic was going to behave as it was going down, we need to know about our own behaviors and the People Patterns that we get stuck in. I think it's essential when parenting teens and tweens to learn about the people patterns that get in the way of connecting with the people you love the most. As a family systems therapist, what I'm trying to do in my job is to identify and interrupt dysfunctional patterns in communication or dysfunctional patterns of behavior and relating. This is one of the main things I talk about in the Fortified Relationships Course, which you can find out more about here

Many parents and teens experience communication issues, ranging from lack of communication to misunderstanding each other’s needs and intentions. Some common communication problems parents and teens run into include:

1. Not listening to each other: A parent and a teen often don’t take the time to really listen and understand each other’s point of view.

2. Not respecting each other's needs and boundaries: Teens may not respect the boundaries set by their parents and parents may not respect the needs of their teens.

3. Using negative language: Both parents and teens may use negative language or insults that can damage the relationship.

4. Blaming each other: Parents and teens may blame each other whenever something goes wrong, instead of trying to find a solution to the problem.

5. Not engaging in healthy conversations: Parents and teens may avoid talking about important topics, such as school, relationships, or drug use.

These are some of the common communication problems parents and teens experience. It is important to understand these issues and work towards improving communication and strengthening the parent-teen relationship.

In conclusion, parenting teenagers can be challenging, but by staying calm and being aware, parents can navigate the ups and downs of parenting teenagers. Anxiety is natural, but it should not take over the household. Instead, parents should create an environment where teenagers can communicate without fear of judgment or punishment. Being aware of what is going on in the lives of teenagers is also important, as it allows parents to support their children when needed. Parenting teenagers can be compared to the movie Titanic, but with the right mindset, parents can help their children weather any storm.


Our Free Online Parenting Course

A bit more on the FORTified Relationships Course:

The Introduction to F.O.R.T-ified Relationship Course is a free course aimed at familiarizing you with some of the core concepts of Family Systems Therapy. Family Systems Therapy has been around since the 1950's and there are decades of research on how to grow and maintain healthy and fulfilling parent-child relationships. Click HERE to learn more

Our FORTified relationships course takes a more global look at relationships, particularly if family stabilization is something that is of interest to parents.


Teens are looking to their parents for someone they can turn to for support when they need, it and to fully be present for them, our job as parents is to be able to understand and connect on an emotional level.


Learn how Chronic Anxiety impacts everyone on the planet, and how it often shows itself in parenting styles and how we interact with our loved ones... and it's never usually in a good way.


What we don't understand is that chronic anxiety is often at the root of many of the behaviors we see in teens and our partners. This often leads to huge miscommunications and breakdowns in relating.


Often the combination of emotional connection, chronic anxiety and reactivity lead us into traps in communication - patterns of dysfunctional relating that increase conflict and hurt.



Learn more about conflict, family systems and growing great relationships

My People Patterns shares the best tools, techniques and knowledge from a family systems perspective - all aimed at helping you grow great relationships. Hit subscribe to learn more about our S.O.F.T approach to healthy connections.

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