Parents can ease conflict with their teens by showing them warmth, researchers say.
In their new study, they analyzed daily diary entries from parents and teens in 151 families. The teens were 13 to 16 years old, and 95% of the parents were women.
“By using 21 consecutive days of daily diaries, we were able to disentangle the day-to-day ways that parents’ behaviors are linked to how loved their teenagers were feeling,” said lead author John Coffey, a visiting assistant professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn.
No matter how close parents and teens were, teens said they felt more loved on days when parents reported showing more affection, understanding and praise, and less loved on days when parents reported more conflict than usual.
But the study also found that parents can reduce the impact of conflict by showing warmth. So when parents showed warmth, high levels of conflict didn’t make teens feel less loved.
But in order to get that benefit, parents had to show warmth on the same day a conflict occurred, according to the findings published July 13 in the journal Emotion.
“Parents often stress about the conflicts they are experiencing with their children, but our study suggests conflicts are manageable as long as children experience warmth from their parents at some point during the same day,” Coffey said in a Yale news release.
The findings add to growing evidence that how loved people feel varies from day to day — even in long-term relationships. How parents and teens communicate and resolve conflict may be most important to maintaining a healthy long-term relationship, according to the study authors.
Avoiding conflicts can actually do damage, they added.
“The study findings are particularly useful right now, because parents and their children are spending so much more time together, often with restricted space and under additional stress. Finding ways to be kind and warm will help mitigate potential conflicts and ensure children feel loved,” Coffey said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers advice on communicating with your teen.