Trying to break through and reconnect with your lightspeed shapeshifting, surly adolescent often proves impossible. And it pains us, the mere cognition of "losing" them. To us, and for us, parent-child symbiosis is simply a given. It's inherent and, ultimately - beyond unconditional. The love we have for them doesn't know measurement units. It's immeasurable. Despite all that, we still find ourselves standing before an unyielding momentum, an avalanche of impulse, and silent treatments. "How do I get through?" - We are way past "Open, sesame" (you know, just like back in the day when they were curious and amazed by magic, and everything seemed so easy)—time to grow up. - Us included. Worry not if you're out of tricks and ideas; you can always find ways to connect with your teenager.
As our children mature, the parent-child bond organically evolves; ours is to understand the fluctuating relationship and provide a vast emotional space that feels nurturing and safe. "I don't remember my generation being deliberately distant and cantankerous with their parents." - times change, and so does the definition of adolescence. There are fewer rules today, as we witness individualism being put on a pedestal. - and it's not a bad thing. Not at all. Raging hormones are never the only culprit. Adolescents are hardwired to create emotional distance. Why? Because - creating an autonomous space is paramount for healthy development. Surely, it may not be all rainbows and glitter, but please remember: they don't know what they're doing. The need for boundary testing is natural and should be accepted. That's how independence is made.
Does any of us, really?
Leave the gavel at the door
Let's be completely honest; you and me. Parents make terrific judges. When your teen flies off the handle and presents you with a "temper tantrum" continuum, reaching for the gavel only makes sense. It's okay. We're scared too. Adolescence is an all-dreading experience for everyone involved. A room full of "deer in the headlights." So, what is it that makes them silent? Is it really on them? Solely? How big is our piece of the "culpability" cake? - The truth is adolescents shut down to prevent parental judgment. Porcupine method. Can't touch this. Naturally, our children's guilt and shame threshold is set pretty low. (and that's the whole idea behind growing up; we work towards debunking the embedded premises about the self and strive for self-acceptance and self-love - ideally).
So, yes, of course, they're scared of our reaction. "Mom, Dad, I drink. Skip school. I had unprotected sex. I experimented with substances." Children dread being lectured. (needless to say, structure and rules are there for a reason.) No matter how seemingly independent, our teenagers yearn for guidance. However, if you're trying to connect with your teenager (the unresponsive kind), try a different approach. Leave judgment at the door. Try to validate their emotions and inner processes: trial and error. Allow mistakes.
All healthy communication rides on our ability to listen. And actively so. Yes, it's hard—more than hard. The innate reflex to dissect, investigate, draw intricate charts and graphs, and give unsolicited advice is superior to all parental communication reflexes. We are their teachers, their beacons, and as such essential entities, our role must be respected and utilized at all times. - And that's how we contribute to the bond's deterioration, albeit unintentionally. Parents seldom listen. They talk. And then they talk some more. - Additionally, we're always right. Right? - The next thing you know, you're talking to the world's most avoidant clam—door slam hour. Let's fix it. Turn the scenario in your favor. Mutual favor. Instead of enforcing monologue as our means of communication, we should turn our selective apparatus into a gentle, cheerleading ear. - and the fearful clam will open.
Relocation (especially if abrupt) can cause familial havoc, as it creates room for deepening insecurities in adolescents. They will fight back even if you do your best to make the transition to Fullerton, CA, seamless, even if you look for expert Fullerton movers to do the heavy lifting. - Teenagers always win the grudge Olympics. - that is unless we make active listening our familial modus.
How do you get a quiet teenager to open up? Let's think. As with all relationships, finding common ground is paramount for connection maintenance. How do we engage our distant, disinterested adolescents? - By engaging about their interests. So, what does it mean? We're not saying, oh, sure, let's do Fortnite. I'll call in sick tomorrow morning. Bonding time. - No. Being curious about their current interests is enough to create a meaningful connection with your child. (yes, it can be a bit strenuous, especially if you can't seem to find anything appealing about their passion choices. You can and will persevere.) If you have a quiet one, taking an interest in their likes and passions can open the communication gates. Even the banalest things can help. Watch TikTok with them. See what makes them laugh. Share yours. Exchange.
Remember, getting them to open up about something important can provide the necessary space for information exchange without the "We need to talk. Sit down." discourse.
To connect with your teenager, practice "US" time. No phones. The good, old, analog day out. "But, they're glued to their iPhones. They don't communicate coherently or make plans with their parents." True. But, try. The enticing game is afoot. Sit down and brainstorm together. What do you enjoy? What do they enjoy most? That new Venezuelan place could be worth a visit. Game night? See a movie. Let them choose. Be proactive. Suppose they say "no" to every little thing, no hard feelings. Ask them to list all activities they'd typically engage in with friends. Make it a weekly thing. Hit and miss. Whatever you do, don't quit. Keep on trying. - They want you to. (even if they're terrible at showing it)
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