What teens need from us
Improving relationships with our teens requires:
1. Open and honest communication related to their developmental level (they don't need us to be their friends).
2. Keep the lines of communication open
3. Set and keep clear limits
4. Balance of everyday parental involvement and allowing them space and freedom
5. Family time at least weekly (like movie night)
6. Family meetings where everyone comes together and shares what is going on in their lives, upcoming events, family projects, and things that need to be done to keep the family running smoothly. This is a great opportunity to let everyone take turns chairing the meeting and following the agenda. It is a time for everyone to give their opinion and be heard and a time to honor and validate the final decisions made by the parents after input from everyone.
7. Our mature response to their behaviors. This means whatever feelings are triggered in us needs to be taken care of within us before we make decisions about what has happened and what needs to be done about it with the teen.
Behavior is communication
The teen's behavior is communication of their process of life and how they are doing. The most important lesson I have learned from the teens I parented and worked with is to not to take everything they say and do personally. Reconnecting and remembering my teen years helped me connect with how much of a struggle they were having. It also helps me remember what I needed from adults that I didn’t get and that I told myself I wouldn't do when I had children (seems like I forgot that decision until they reminded me of it).
Another thing I learned from my girls was that parenting triggered my issues about how I was parented. My reactivity to what they were doing had more to do with me and the conflicts I had between how I was parented and how I wanted to parent. I had to learn to calm my inner self before I dealt with the outer issues they brought to me. Out of my experiences with my daughters and our struggles I can now say how grateful I am for what they reminded my about the experience of being a teen.
Parents are told that, once your child is a teen, you can't do anything with them. I don't agree. Teens tell me they are yearning and sometimes fighting for their parents' attention, help and guidance. Parents are important to teens and teens are important to parents. It is time parents and teens quit seeing each other as the enemy. It is time parents and teens see that they love and need each other. But not just any old way.
Teens are a reflection of not only their parents, but also their peers and society. We need to stop parent and teen blame. We need to take a long pausing breath. We need to return to the love we have for each other and rebuild where we have ruptured our relationships. Adults need to go to the front of the line and be the guide to their teens to reconnect with them. This is not an easy task, but it is well worth the effort.
Parents and teens need to take response-ability for their feelings and actions rather than reacting and blaming each other. That is the road into the chasm of a damaged relationship. The road out of the chasm is connecting with love, kindness, and understanding of self and the teen. We can't expect our teens to do this if we haven't. Parents need to be the change they want to see in their teens. When adults do that, their influence will change what their teens see and that will change what is wired in the brain.
Relationships matter the most. Without relationships, nothing else will do.