It is extremely common to struggle to connect with our teenage children. It seems as if suddenly, your child is a stranger. What happened to that sweet child you knew so well?
Having raised two teens, I know all too well what that’s like. It is true that teens fiercely want more independence and the freedom to do things their own way. But the reality is they still need to stay connected to you – like the saying that parents should give their children “roots and wings.”
Here’s what has worked for me – and this, I’ve found, goes for anything you want in life.
First and foremost, focus on the kind of relationship you want with your child. Visualize you and your child talking together, laughing, doing a favorite activity together. Feel how it feels.
Then, recall all the things you appreciate about your child. You might include the little things you’ve forgotten or may not even have thought about – how he looks when he’s sleeping, her kind heart, the way he looks when he’s trying to figure something out, her confidence.
You might also remember the things you loved about your child when he or she was very little. How he used to beg you to read the same story over and over again. Or how she loved to play “teacher” by reading a story to the dog. And include the things about your child that you’re grateful for – that he’s healthy, that you can provide a good home.
If it feels right, you might share some of these things with your child as a reminder to him or her of your love.
You might also start with taking ownership if you’ve been overly critical of your child and how. By doing this, you’re not only connecting with your child, you’re also modeling responsibility and respect.
You might also acknowledge it can be difficult as a parent to navigate this strange new time, just as it is for your child, but that your love will always be there for them. And for specific advice on balancing your teen’s need for independence with house rules, check out this post.
I found it extremely important to make it clear that your child can come to you with anything and that there is nothing they could ever say or do that would make you stop loving them.
I recognize that saying things like this don’t generally come easy for us. But once you go there and you experience that true connection with your child, it will be worth it. For both of you.
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