Often, I hear parents say to me that their teen doesn’t want to be with them, they don’t want to talk, engage, or do anything other than be on their phones or in their rooms. At times, I am sure this is true, having teens myself I see this in our home.
Parents can feel like they are losing their child to social media, gaming, friends, or a romantic partner, etc. That they are somehow being replaced. Parents can feel like they don’t know who their child is anymore or what they like, who they see and what they are watching on their phones. I don’t feel it needs to be like this.
Our teens certainly want independence from us, but they do not want disconnection from us. This is completely different, and I think we can get the two confused.
We want our children to develop into independent adults. For this to happen we must learn the difference between independence and disconnection.
Without connection there can be confusion, frustration, anger, mistrust, lack of communication, feelings of rejection from both parties, and a whole host of other emotions.
With independence it allows for open and honest dialogue, non-judgemental communication, trust, clarity and feelings of connection and love.
Being connected, during adolescence with our teens, is of the utmost importance for their development as well as for us to be able to guide and hold space for them. This means as parents the focus is needed on connection rather than the focus on being in control.
Its easy to want to control the out of control. These feelings can come from our own anxieties and worries about their safety and choices. Trying to control someone will not work. When we try to control, we lose sight of connection.
When I think of my own experiences of parenting and being parented the toughest times were when I felt controlled as a teen and rebelled monumentally. I have seen similar situations playing out in my kids too.
If you try to control your teens friends, hobbies, behaviour, and more, you will have a much tougher time parenting. Trying to have open dialogue between you and raising concerns in a calm way, is a far more connected approach for both you and your teens. Teens need to feel heard, validated, and not like all their ideas, friends, hobbies are out of bounds and out of reach. This won’t help their development or your stress levels.
I am not saying that you must agree with your teens and let them run wild. I am saying that treating them with the respect you expect from them is a better approach. I often find myself having to take a breath before responding, and trying to remember they are learning how to become independent with my guidance and influence. It doesn’t always work – sometimes my inner teen rears her head and I have some apologising to do.
Just because they are a young person, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a thing or two from them. My kids help me with my parenting skills almost weekly. No one teaches us how to parent. We must learn and be guided by what we have in front of us. No two parenting experiences will be the same – no one way will fit all.
Connection is a basic human need. Our babies, have grown bigger, more opinionated, taller in my family (not hard!), quieter but nosier at the same time, take up more space (physically and energetically), demand more food, don’t see mess, etc. But remember they have more demands on them too – school, society, puberty (it’s not just girls and periods – boys have loads to figure out too), their brains developing, needing more sleep, wanting to feel more independent from you, navigating their emotions, etc. So much for them to figure out. Parents and teens are evolving together… both in unchartered territory, both on a new path together. Even if they have older siblings and you feel like you have done this before, you haven’t’ and they haven’t. Each young person is different, in my eyes each parenting experience is different per child, even per hour, per day, per week! You get the picture. The difference is you have experience to pull on, but it doesn’t mean one rule fits all, like I said before.
I try and see the teenage years as a journey. We have this precious time with our offspring to see them go out into the big wide world, be what they want to be, experiment, fail, succeed, love, loose, come back, need us, not need us, choose to stay close, travel the world – whatever they want to do and be. I can choose to be annoyed and stressed throughout this time or I can choose to embrace it and connect as much as I can with them. I want them to fly the nest and be confident independent adults. I want them to go and live their lives, not the lives I think is ‘best’ for them. To me that would be failing them and my role as a parent. I want them to know how much I love them, connect with them and am there for them when they need me.
I truly believe being a parent to each and every one of my children is a gift. I feel blessed even on the days when I feel like I want to tear my hair out, or I am crying to myself because I see their pain and hardship. I remind myself then that this too shall pass, nothing is static, its constantly moving. We are human, we need connection to survive. Our teens are no different to any other developmental stage in the sense that they need to be loved and be able to love. This is what connection with ourselves, our community, our family, our friends is all about.
If you take one thing from my ramblings today, take this. Our teens want independence from us, not disconnection from us. During this time they need our influence more than ever, but to open the way for this, we need to focus on connection not control.