It's sometimes hard to admit that the communication or connection is lackluster with our kids. As parents, we may feel like we are failing and our teens, well, they feel lonely and like they are failing too. No matter if you're the parent or the teen, it's not fun to feel disconnected especially during the whirlwind of adolescence.
Let's talk about it.
Are you a parent who feels like you don't "know" your teen anymore? You are not alone. It's a very common experience for parents.
As a teen coach who works with teens everyday, one of the top complaints I hear is that teens also feel the disconnection. In some cases they feel rejected or judged or like they don't measure up, but in all cases they feel alone in their day-to-day lives. This loneliness isn't healthy and it has to be addressed, particularly as it can poorly impact teen mental health, which is at an all time high.
While much of this disconnection is a natural part of the separation process and is highly desired by teens, there is still a part that remains largely neglected and it's this space of assumption centered around communication. The assumption that "I'm just going to the grocery store, my teen wouldn't want to come" on behalf of the parents, can leave the teen feeling ignored or irrelevant to be considered. The "my parents don't understand and so wouldn't be interested in my friend drama" on behalf of teens, can leave parents feeling out-of-the-loop in their teen's need for advice or support. It's through these assumptions that we unknowingly withhold small opportunities to bond and express the desire to stay connected. Furthermore, these assumptions lead to misunderstandings about one another that build barriers requiring work to break down. Bearing in mind that the small things are the big things for teens, I've compiled some quick and easy ways to start proactively avoiding or chipping away at these barriers while forging a lifelong bond that can set us up for success into our next parenting journey...adulthood.
Many of our families find these tips useful.
This one is EASY. Keep it simple. A trip to the grocery store. A coffee date on a Saturday morning. An impromptu movie or video game night allowing your teen to choose. Play it cool so everyone feels they can come as they are.
Look up (from your device)
Many opportunities to engage with our teens are missed because we are so immersed in the social scroll of doom. Not only is this bad for our relationships, it's also showing our teens that our devices are the priority and they will parrot our behavior.
Start. Stop. Continue.
Known better for it's use in a leadership context, I've found this to be a great tool to build robust conversations with meaning and depth. Provided you're ready for some solid constructive criticism, this tool can be very revealing and productive. Ask your teen what you can start, what you can stop, and what you can continue doing that helps them feel connected, helps them feel supported, or gets in their way as they pursue their endeavors. One question at a time. Don't rush. Find the nuggets and go deeper. Welcome them to ask you these questions as well.
Pro tips: Be open minded. Don't get defensive. Truly listen to what is being shared.
Create a space of psychological safety
This is a lot like what we crave in a healthy work environment, but at home. The feeling of an "open door policy" and a safe space to fall when you make a mistake. Adopting a growth mindset home culture where we act as guides over micromanagers. A place where everyone feels safe to be themselves, egos are checked at the door, and healthy development is fostered. This piece takes work and time, but is well-worth the effort.
Make the shift
How can you move from parenting to partnering with your teen? Being a teen is no easy feat, nor is being the parent of one. Sadly there is no formal graduation in parenting stages that tells us "okay, you are now the proud parent of a teen. Here are the steps to take." With many growth opportunities on the horizon, when things get tough your teen wants to know you're by their side as an ally in this journey, not as their adversary. This is where forming a partnership to usher them into adulthood can be so powerful in keeping the door of communication open and the relationship solid, regardless of some of the shortsighted decisions they may make. The two previous tips can help you learn how to build this partnership authentically while still maintaining structure, accountability, and discipline as the parent.
I hope you found these insights to be helpful! If you'd like more support, my team and I are available for speaking engagements and workshops as well as parent, teen, and/or family coaching. Visit us here to book a consult: www.hilitecoaching.com
It takes a village. We would be honored to serve within yours.