Parenting Teens Tip #1: Connection First
As our readers may have noticed, I have been particularly focused on writing about parenting teens recently. While there are many reasons for this, including my passion for supporting teens and their parents, another reason is that teens are often particularly difficult to parent. So, the next part of our blog series is going to address just this topic.
Each week I will share a tip in detail about how to parent your teen more effectively.
Today, I want to share more about the foundation of parenting a teen (at least in my eyes). To me, the most crucial part of parenting teens is that you lead with your connection and relationship with them. As a therapist who specializes in teens, I can’t tell you how often teens complain that their parents seem to only care about what they are doing, rather than who they are and what they are learning about themselves.
I believe that the most important tip I can give parents is to work hard to connect with your teen in a subtle but present way.
This is one of those areas that can be so tricky to get right, but very valuable if you can manage it! See, I know that teens are super prickly people and one day they want to hang with you all the time and think you are actually not a horrible person. And then the next, they seem like they hate you. It is so hard both to receive this inconsistent feedback but to also manage your own emotions and reactions in the relationship with them. Especially if you are parenting a teen who is more difficult than you were yourself as a teen. This inconsistency can just be so frustrating and hard to relate to if your own transition to adulthood was a bit smoother.
I want to mention that it is actually an important developmental step for teens to start pushing their parents away. This is all a part of them individuating and becoming their own people who will move out of your home (on the particularly prickly days I am sure this is a goal you can get behind!). It is totally normal for your teen to vary daily in how much they want you involved in their life and totally normal for you to feel frustrated by this inconsistency. However, it is crucial to try and handle your feelings about this privately as teens do not often respond well to their parents telling them just how difficult they are making their lives. Teens are pretty self-centered (we call it ego-centric) by nature and this is a part of their brain development to be that way. So, they really aren’t going to relate much to their parents’ experiences particularly if their parents are sharing their experiences in any way that sounds like a guilt trip or like it is all about them!
So, how do I connect in a subtle but present way? Let’s call this one, the 3 C’s:
What do I do if my teen keeps pushing me away?
I don’t know if I can underline or say this enough. Just keep showing up. Be there, present in a caring way but not overbearing. If they get in the car with you and don’t want to talk, see if they want to just listen to music or allow them to be quiet. I have found that parents are often so interested in connecting that they don’t give their teens enough space. This is a crucial part of parenting teens, showing up to connect through consistent, caring, and compassionate parenting but also letting the teen guide things a bit.
If they want to talk about anything, I would listen. And don’t lecture. Just listen and keep all your super helpful parenting advice to yourself sometimes. If they don’t want to talk, give them space. Don’t force it as that rarely works at this age. Let them know you are there and you care and all the times you have listened and connected using the tips I’ve already shared, will lead them to want to share with you sometimes. Remember, it is totally normal and natural for teens to have secrets and boundaries and to share limited info with parents. That’s okay. Just try to be there for them as best you can while you meander this often difficult road to adulthood.
If you would like to talk more about parenting your teen with a Thrive therapist, contact us today! We love talking about how to increase positive connections between teens and their parents.
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child or teen psychotherapy services in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
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