Reconnect with your teenage self
There’s no better way to improve a relationship than putting yourself in the other’s person shoes. With your teen, you don’t have to imagine what that’s like—you can recollect it. How did you feel about yourself when you were your child’s age? What were you insecure about? What sorts of things did you think and worry about? Did you feel like your parents understood you? Could your parents have been more supportive or helpful? How? By engaging in these questions, you will be able to understand, empathize and ultimately get along better with your teen.
Don’t take it personally
Do you remember when your 3-year-old’s favorite word was ‘no’? When he or she was constantly testing boundaries? This was your child’s way of establishing independence as well as becoming his or her own person (in a 3-year-old way). This what your teen is doing, only in a more complex (and at times, perplexing) way. This boundary testing, and with many teens, rebelliousness, isn’t about you. You just happen to be there.
Another behavior parents take personally is their teen’s preference for the company and confidence of peers over family. This is particularly true when parents enjoyed a close relationship with their child and pre-teen. If you keep in mind that seeking out peers is an important part of your teen’s development, it can mitigate feelings of rejection. Remember your teen needs you, even if he or she isn’t saying so.
Expect mixed messages
Teens are at crossroads of childhood and adulthood. They feel pulled in both directions. They covet independence while craving to be taken care of. They feel both invincible and extremely vulnerable. Parents can feel like they’re in the eye of a storm as their teen works through these conflicting feelings. I often tell my clients that managing expectations is the key to successful relationships. If you expect mixed messages, you will not to be disappointed.
Listen, don’t lecture
There’s a lot you want your teen to think about, like making good choices, managing peer pressure, and planning for the future. This big picture stuff, important as it is, is probably not on your teen’s mind most of the time. Rather, just like us adults, they’re thinking about what’s happening in their day-to-day lives. Ask them about it. Stay engaged even if you don’t always (or often) get a response. Delayed gratification is the key to communicating with your teen. This delay may be 5+ years but your teen will eventually be appreciative of your efforts to stay engaged and connected.
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