You may or may not know by now that I hold a strong passion for opening communication between teens and parents. Wow oh wow did I push and pull my parents in every possible direction as a teen. “I need you” … “No, get away” … it must have been so incredibly confusing for them! But I couldn’t help it, I was an emotional roller coaster.
I was confused to the max about the pressures I felt surrounding me. Who did I want to be? How did I want to show up in the world? I constantly analyzed how others showed up and compared myself to them. I fell flat on my face a LOT, but I was trying to grow into an adult and it was damn hard!
Through my writings about “A Teen From Lost to Found”, I actually get quite a few parents sending me private messages asking for help. I have never, nor will ever, claim to know the answers. I’m not even a parent yet. But, I did go through that horrible growing stage more recently and I can bring some insight into what I needed. It may or may not work for all parents, but I do believe it will work for some.
Today I have chosen to share some of these insights into teen-parent communication. I would love to know your thoughts and feedback!
The big question always seems to be, “I can tell my son or daughter is pulling away. I want to prove I’m here for anything he/she needs, but I also want to give him/her space to be where they need to be right now. How do I balance this?!?”
I can tell you that for me, all I needed to know was my mom was there IF I needed her. Now, I tried to be tough, but I knew she was there. I spent a lot of time locked in my room listening to rock music or rap music. I spent a lot of time crying or feeling depressed.
The DAY I graduated high school I started to snap out of it. High school was an awful experience for me only because I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I didn’t feel accepted and I don’t think I wanted to be. Once I graduated and started college I was free and I felt free. It wasn’t long before I totally and completely let my parents in and we’ve been extremely close ever since. I’ve actually just recently moved to Arizona to make up for lost time and be with them for a few years!
So, what does it mean to “be there”…
- Ask questions. “How was your day?” “Any struggles you want to talk about?” “If you could pinpoint the biggest hurt/insecurity/fear/emotion, what would it be?”
- Give space. “I know you’re in a time where you want some space and that’s ok with me. I’m here anytime you want to go on a walk, go to a move or just chat. This is a tough time for all young adults and I want to give you the space you need as long as you don’t abuse it. I know we’ll be close again someday soon, but I want to give you the space to be where you are. I’m close by.”
- Invite them on a date. Ask your daughter out for mother-daughter dates every once and a while. Ask your son to a basketball game. Even if they say no, they know you’re there and TRYING. This counts for a lot – I can promise you that.
If you have concerns, you absolutely, without a doubt need to tell your teen. Young adults think they always know better. Any time your teen wants to do something that is a big step in your mind and you feel your son or daughter is headed in a scary direction… but they think they are headed in a RIGHT direction… caution.
What I wanted most in situations like that was to be treated like an adult (even though I wasn’t one – not even close). I wanted my parents to level with me – explain to me their fears and what they were nervous about. If they tried to TELL me what was going to happen, I’d shut down and think they were wrong. Just because they made mistakes didn’t mean that I was going to make the same ones. In hindsight, they were right every time, but I HAD to explore on my own – this is part of growing up and you can’t be deprived of that.
The most important thing in ANY relationship is communication. Without it, unexpected results will occur every time. The best way to maintain control without it looking like you’re a control-monger is to ask questions. “How do you feel about x?” or “I know you’re wanting to do x but have you thought about if y happens as a result? How would you react?” I think during teenage years I needed more of a “mentor” than a “parent”. When I abused my freedom, THAT’S when I needed a parent. Teens just get this itch to experience all that life has to offer WAY before they’re emotionally ready. As a parent, I watched how my mom allowed me the space I needed but I ALWAYS knew she was a second away anytime I needed her.
I’d also encourage parents to seek support – other parents who have experienced this transition or who are currently going through it. It’s awful!! But you will get through this, and so will your son or daughter. Most likely you’ll both make mistakes, but if it’s for the sake of keeping a good relationship, then it will always end up ok!
I hope at the very least this post gave you parents some comfort, ideas or things to think about. Again, I’d love some feedback on these insights. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m right on, or just plain nuts? Submit a comment below and speak your mind.