Without a doubt, young people often feel disregarded by their parents. At the same time, parents feel shut out by their teens.
Hence, the rub. Parents want honest communication, and their children want more attention, specific attention. When they don’t get it, teens feel misunderstood, and they clam up.
Then, parents try harder, offering advice, tips, and suggestions. This makes teens feel yet more disregarded.
Then, parents give up, feeling frustrated that, “at least I am trying, but my child won’t even talk to me.”
During 26 years of experience with teens and parents, I’ve seen this rub many times. Teens want understanding from parents. Parents want intimacy with teens. Neither is getting what s/he wants. Both are frustrated.
Fortunately, the Holidays are a perfect time to practice honest, heart-to-heart communication, especially now when everyone is navigating more uncertainties than usual.
Here’s how it works:
- First, ask your teen to have an honest conversation.
- And, if it’s not the right time, ask when would be a good time.
- Then, create privacy; rid the space of distractions; maybe, get out of the house.
- Teens love to talk over food.
Honest communication starts with you as a parent acknowledging that you have dropped the ball.
If there is something to apologize for, do it. At least, admit that you don’t know everything. Perhaps, admit that we parents mostly don’t know what we’re doing.
That is, our default is to parent the way we were parented. Maybe, we get some smart advice from books, podcasts, professionals, and workshops. Even so, this doesn’t mean that it all works.
Perhaps, admit that when we see our children struggling, basically, we throw up a shot. If we don’t score, we try something else, until something sticks.
Or, try saying, “I’m betting that you don’t feel entirely understood by me. I bet there are needs and wants you have that I am not meeting.”
Courageously, you could say, “I want to know how I can be a better parent. I want to know how I can be the best parent for you.”
And, “How am I failing? How am I succeeding? What requests or suggestions do you have for me?”
Also, “I love you. I’m your biggest fan. I’m sorry that it doesn’t feel that way sometimes, but I do want you to be happy, fulfilled, and at home with yourself.”
Don’t force anything. If your teens don’t open up, let it go. Assure them that you are there whenever they need you. Assure them that you’re open to their feedback.
Also, take some advice from Dr. Dan Siegel, the author of the book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.
Specifically, he explains that your teen has to push away from you, in order to psychologically prepare her/himself for the real world without you.
At the same time, our teens want us to ask questions. They want us to be interested in them. They want us to pay attention to them.
Clearly, the message, “I want you to pay attention to me; now, go away,” is challenging. The good news is that it’s not your fault. It’s the nature of the parent/teen relationship.
Here’s another blog post that could help with the all too common response from teens: “I don’t know.”