Teenagers crave validation. Even if they pretend to be too cool for soul-talks, they long for open talks with parents.
Parents take a hard hit when they realize that their little, adorable kids are no more little and try their best NOT to appear adorable when they hit their teens. It takes time for moms and dads to process the changes: they look different, they speak differently, and they shut doors (literally and figuratively) for open communication.
Understanding your teenage son or daughter requires a lot more patience than parenting a little child. While you might think they are turning down all your initiatives to talk, they might actually be craving for a deeper connection with you. One that allows them to share the secrets of their emotionally charged and hormone-driven world.
Here are 6 insights to open channels of communication and build a strong bond with your teenage child.
Developmental psychologists emphasize that teenage is the time to explore one's sense of self. This is in direct conflict with the parenting style we had to adopt when they were kids. Telling them what to do was important for their safety and giving them a sense of direction. Children yearned familiarity and routine. Teenagers? Well, they just hate everything that is perceived as a threat to their newly sprouting, but still hazy, identity.
This includes rules, curfews, chores, and routines that were good for them earlier and part of your family rituals. That's why telling never works, ever. And don't take their rebellion too personal. They are just playing out their biological and psychological developmental urges that are necessary for them to become healthy, independent individuals. If you need things done, having a conversation about it, even if that means just picking the trash and answering their questions about why they need to do it, is important.
Yours and theirs. These two worlds are far too away from each other. A teenager who shuts him, or herself in the bathroom for an hour on a weekday morning, making you late for work and themselves late for school, is not insensitive, and not at all selfish. For you, the meeting at work, the not-so-understanding boss, and appointment that afternoon are pressing and critical.
For him, his changing features or a pimple could determine if he has the courage to approach his friends without doubting himself. For a young girl, her growing curves and how her body could be perceived by her peers is scary. She might be scrutinizing herself in the mirror from all possible angles hoping she's good enough to be accepted by her friends in school.
Or, she might be overplaying a bully's remark and hopelessly wishing she had smaller arms or a thinner nose. Having to face a tough and judgemental world can be life-threatening. You see? Two parallel worlds, far removed from each other, exist on a Monday morning, in the same household.
Teenagers need to be listened to. Beneath all their I'm-too-cool-for-this attitude and you-just-don't-get-me reactions, is still your child wanting to be recognized in his new, still-evolving version. He needs to know that you value the work-in-progress self that he is. Being a good listener involves:
- being genuinely interested to know what they are going through
- feeling what they feel, not just hearing what they say
- being in sync with them, moment-to-moment, rather than waiting to give your response
- holding back judgments, reactions, opinions until they are fully listened to
- responding from a place of understanding, rather than knowing