Do you ever wish you could turn back the clock to a time when your children shared everything with you and couldn't get enough hugs? Your teenager might still let you hug them on occasion, but it's always on their terms; try it when they're "not in the mood" and they turn into a human surfboard.
But the animal kingdom is full of similar phenomenon. Scientists believe that the teenage equivalents in animals exhibit obnoxious behavior for a reason. It drives the parents crazy enough to finally kick them out of the tree, cave, or burrow. It's likely to be a similar phenomenon with human teenagers. Where would the human race be if no one ever left home?
So, it's up to parents to create new ways to connect to their teens. Here are a few things you can try:
1. Avoid forcing the closeness issue. We know how hard it is to feel your teen not wanting to spend time with you, but experts advise letting your teenager go when they pull away. It's important that they learn you respect their boundaries without adverse consequences. They usually come back around and it's important to be there for them when that happens.
It's a delicate balancing act. Chasing after them makes things worse. Not doing anything can send the message that you don't care. Try telling them that you understand they need space.
2. Discover new ways to be affectionate. A squeeze on the arm or a quick back scratch might be more acceptable to your teen than a hug or a kiss on the forehead. Affection can never go beyond the wishes of the person that wants the lesser amount - consent and the autonomy to enforce boundaries that feel good to them is critical!
3. Spend time on their terms. Adults like to sit down with a cup of coffee and chat. Teenagers like to watch YouTube videos or play video games.
You might have to sit silently on the couch and endure the agony of a video game you can't comprehend to just spend quiet time with your teenager....it's worth it and they'll notice that they are important to you!
4. It's all about being present. Be part of your child's day-to-day activities. Go to their ball games, their school performances, their speech and debate matches. Offer to drive them and their friends to the mall or to hang out at a friend's house. They might not want to hear from you, but they like to know that you're there.
5. Understand their need to look good to their friends. At some point, most adults attain a view of the world that permits them to comfortably get the mail in nothing but a bathrobe. But teenagers are very concerned with the opinions of their peers. It's important to respect and nurture that. If you want alienate your child, make them look bad in front of their friends.
6. Less talk, more listening. By the time our kids reach the teenage years, we adults have lived quite a bit and have plenty of advice to dish out. But... be wary of getting on your soapbox. By their teenage years, kids have a pretty well formed idea of your family values, and this may be a season where we are better off listening and keeping our mouths closed. When we talk less and listen more, it gives us an opportunity to learn more about who they are - and this can be an incredible gift!
It's challenging, but try to just listen and keep quiet unless asked for advice. All relationships are enhanced by effective listening skills.
7. Allow your teen to f*ck up. While we'd all like to protect our children from everything, everyone needs to make mistakes and learn from them. Children that are over-protected frequently struggle when it's time to face the world on their own.
Give your teens enough leeway to make poor choices and then be available when they need your support dealing with the natural consequences of their behaviors. It's better to teach this self-resilience while they're minors so you're there to step in and offer support before the stakes get too high.
Help your children know they can come to you with ANY problem without fear of judgement or shaming. If they feel safe, they're less likely to lie or sneak around, or hide bad choices.
8. Remember what it was like. When you were a teenager, you were probably preoccupied with your peers and the opposite sex, worried about the future, and wanted more privacy. You child is no different. It also helps to remember that their hormones and all this growing is stressful; be their soft, reliable, non-judgemental "soft place" to land when they need it
It's natural for space to develop between teenagers and their parents. A child can't suddenly transform from being your little baby to fending for himself overnight. There's a transitional period that everyone passes through. It's challenging for both the teen and the parents.
It's important to be available for your child but not smother them. Be patient and love them.