I have heard from a lot of moms of teens lately, so I knew I needed to address this age group in this week’s blog. I’ve gotten calls, emails and found myself in conversations with parents who are struggling to connect with their teen.
Here are 5 steps you can take to connect with your teen:
1. Work on Your Poker Face
Don’t overreact. Talk calmly with your teen. I know this may be easier said than done, but I have spoken to many teens who say they don’t tell their parents things because they overreact. Before we even talk about consequences or punishments the teens may be trying to avoid, they are first and foremost interested in avoiding your overreaction.
Teens may actually be more sensitive/reactive to your yelling than even younger kids. Yelling at them and overreacting can cause them to either lash back out at you or shut down and resent you from a quiet, seething place, almost counting the days until they can get out from under your roof. Neither option is going to help anyone, and things just spiral down to an even worse place.
2. Hold Your Horses
Take a time-out yourself before responding to your teen. When you give yourself that pause between what they did (stimulus) and what you do as a result (reaction), you give yourself a much greater chance of responding instead of reacting. When you dish out knee-jerk punishments, you are just setting yourself up for more tension, more fighting, more distance.
And punishments are not in fact even the way to respond. I wrote extensively on this, which you can read here, and you can also get my Super Formula for working through any problems you encounter with your child.
3. Figure out Your Teen Game Plan
Often, it can be helpful to let your teen know that you need a while to think a situation through before you really talk about it. That way, your teen knows that you are not blowing it off or forgetting about it. Rather, you just need time to think. This has the added benefit of modeling for them how to respond when they encounter a tough situation. When we yell at them when we are triggered, we are modeling that that is the way to react in stressful situations. We must also remember that our older teens are very close to becoming young adults and our time to influence them before they move out is limited. Time is of the essence at that stage of childhood.
4. DON’T Lecture
Sure, we may “know” more than they do, and we’ve had more life experience. But they don’t see it that way. And if you come from this place with them, it will only serve to further disconnect them from you.
Rather, take time to try to really understand what it feels like to be in their shoes at this moment. What does this situation feel like for them? It is too easy with time and maturity to want to see their teenage angst as simple as that. But to them, their troubles feel like the end of the world as they know it. Just like it felt for us at their age. Compassion and empathy are priceless skills to employ, especially with our teens.
5. Team Work makes the Dream Work
Figure out a plan together to address whatever the issue is. Time is of the essence as our kids become older teens. We are in a race against the clock to prepare them to transition into adulthood after high school. Gone are the days where we can just dole out the decision like a judge bringing down the gavel. Teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration are key at this stage.
Parenting is hard. There is no doubt about that. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it is for many families. There IS a better way. If you are still struggling, please reach out. I’d love to help you before your child is no longer a child. Contact me to schedule an appointment to see how I can help you.