Do you find your teenager being disengaged and preoccupied with their phones, video games or social media? Has your little girl or boy grown up into a young adult you don’t really know? Is this new season of parenting difficult for you and causing tension between you and your teenager? Regardless of the challenges or how your teenager responds, you still remain the most important person in their life. They still need you and your love and guidance whether they express it, or even challenge it. You remain the most important connection they have.
Gone are the days of your child listening to every instruction and discipline you may have provided them. As parents, we know “what is right and wrong” for our children. We do all we can to protect, guide and love them along their way in life. However, the teenager is testing his/her independence and separation from the family. They challenge the rules and expectations. There is the fear of our teenager's failure or going off rails as his/her grades slip or moods shifts. What is going on? How can I reach them? Who are they? All valid questions.
Though your teenager may not be able to clearly express his/her needs, they still need acceptance and reassurance in the tumultuous transition called the teen years. They need you to compliment them and remind them of their value and worth. Do not stop speaking positive praise into them, regardless of what you see. Look for strengths at all cost in your teenager, even if that means to compliment them on something as little as their smile. Keep looking for the positives. As parents we too easily get caught up on correcting the negatives we see. In the hundreds of people I’ve worked with I’ve discovered that positive reinforcement is more sustainable motivation and facilitate authentic connection.
This child you used to wash and cloth as your little prince or princess is growing up. Maybe your teenage boy doesn’t shower or brush his teeth as often as he should. Maybe your daughter is trying to dress as if she were going to a nightclub as she heads off to school. They are looking for acceptance to increase self-esteem. I encourage you as parents to provide them acceptance before they seek it outside the house. They may not acknowledge you or put value into what you say, but they hear it. They will grow out of this phase one day and will they look back and think “My parents loved me through a time I treated them poorly.” The choice is yours, your consistency will show your child unconditional love and support in how you value them. The affects may not be immediate, but they are profound.
Look for ways to connect with them in what they are interested in. If your teenage son likes to play video games, watch him play and ask him questions about the game. If your daughter likes music you are not familiar with, listen to it and ask questions about it. The more we can connect, the better the opportunity to know how they are thinking and feeling. You are showing them they are valued in asking about their interests. If we seek to know more about them and their interests, it may increase dialog about other things in life. If they resist, don’t give up.
Finally, create empathy with your teenager. Place yourself in their shoes. Do you remember going to school, measuring yourself up to all the popular kids, the stresses of homework and fitting in with your peers? Help them identify their feelings and valid them. I repeat, your teenager’s feelings are valid. Did I mention your teenager’s feelings are valid? It is important to drive this point home. Remember, they are the same person whom you held in your arms. They are the same person you used to get ice cream with and play at the park. This awkward age needs you to connect and validate what they are going through. As we create empathy, we create safety and the possibility of vulnerability with them. You may not always agree with what they think or how they feel, but resist the strong initial urge to correct or fix their feelings. Help them work through it. Your job is no less important than when they were a young child, it’s just different.
If you are experiencing challenges and struggles with your teenager and need help please give me a call today. There is hope and there are solutions. Here at Renovari Counseling we provide professional guidance to empower the change you desire.
Jeff Ortiz, MFTi, IMF 85140
Supervised by Chris Williams, LMFT 52007
2950 E Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821