Every young person needs one relationship that they can depend on as they make the journey towards adulthood. You can’t force connection, and if the relationship with your teen has been a rocky one for a few months or years, then you’ll need to start slowly and expect hiccups at first.
No matter how tricky or complex your relationship with your teen is, you can turn it around and come to a place of mutual respect and loving communication with them. Begin to develop a habit of daily connection – ask them regularly about their day-to-day life and persist in checking in and asking them how they are going, even when they seem guarded and uncommunicative.
It’s normal for teens to fight off your advances or shy away from connection at times. However, by simply persisting, you help them to see that you really are interested in their life.
Listen more than you speak and make yourself emotionally available to them when they need you to be. Young people will share their problems with their parents when parents are able to be good listeners.
Teenagers generally don’t open up to you about their problems out of a desire for you to solve them; when you play the role of the ‘fixer’, this leads to feelings of incompetence and dependency, which goes against their developmental need to push you away.
Adolescents open up to their parents in the hope that they will listen and ask useful questions that help them to work out what they think, how they feel, and ultimately, help them to reach their own solutions.
When you’re able to facilitate these kinds of open-ended, supportive, listening-focused conversations with your teen, they will begin to feel that you’re on their team, and develop a deeper sense of trust in you. In this way, over time, you will develop a close connection with one another.
The ‘midnight call’ is common among teens. By this, I mean that teens will often seek their parents or carers out just as they’re going to bed at night. That precious moment just before bed is one of low pressure – the tension of the day is dropped and a window of opportunity opens for them to express their thoughts and feelings with you. Try to make yourself available when these moments arise.
Have an expectation of reconnection after time apart. With time, young people will share that expectation and will also seek to reconnect after separation. If this is new for you and your teen, do not take their initial lack of interest personally – in time they will take for granted the routine of reconnection. To order a copy of Taming Teens (available in eBook or hard cover) by Dr Anna Cohen go to:
Taming Teens by Dr Anna Cohen (Hybrid Publishers RRP $29.99) is available for purchase at www.hybridpublishers.com.au, at all good book stores nationally or at all Kids & Co. clinics.