“How this child hurts me” . This is what a mother told me during therapy, in relation to what she was experiencing in front of her son’s adolescence. And this is not an isolated case, we often hear the complaint of parents who are sometimes surprised, sometimes disappointed and in most cases without knowing how to act in front of those who were once their children and now are some silent, rebellious, angry, questioning young people who challenge us, and sometimes even see us as the enemy .
Adolescence is a complicated time and as parents it is normal that we can get a little overwhelmed. Even though we have read about it, and despite doing our best to inform ourselves, when the time comes for our child to be a teenager, we may suffer anxiety when having to face this new situation.
Rebellious Teens: A Guide for Parents in Distress
As a result of the workshops I have given to parents, I have been able to collect some concepts that I hope will be useful to them. The focus is on what we can do, what is in our hands, not on complaining about their attitudes and trying to change them, which only brings frustration, because no one can change the other one overnight.
Instead, if I transform my attitudes and become more aware, I am taking the first step. I clarify that this does not mean abandoning the limits and consequences that are necessary and would be the subject of another reflection.
You may be interested in: “10 Common Symptoms of Adolescent Depression”
Six tips to improve communication with teenagers
To try to provide useful tools for parents who have problems living with their adolescent children, I propose a series of points that will allow us to lay the foundations for better communication and interaction with them .
1. I disassociate my personal history from yours
As parents, we must be able to disassociate our personal history from that of our adolescent child, disassociating what is ours from what is his, thus avoiding making him carry a backpack with added pressure . It is vital that we understand him as he is and that we take responsibility for our own life, and let him go his way. As parents we have to try to make it easier for the adolescent child to develop his life with independence and by living his own experiences. This will make him learn for himself and adapt better to the social environment. As parents, therefore, we do not need to add anxiety or fears to our children.
2. I avoid comparing it with others
Another essential point. Our adolescent child has the right to go his own way in life according to his preferences and his own decisions, and we parents must support and respect him so that he is able to deal successfully with his own experiences .Putting labels on his personal preferences or comparing him with other people not only does not encourage him to improve but can put a heavy burden on his self-concept. We must be able to make a constant effort to respect his way of being, even in the case that as parents we think that his attitude is not the most appropriate. Of course, this implies not wanting our child to look like someone else, constantly comparing him with that high school classmate who gets better grades, or any other reflection that might diminish his self-esteem.
3. I understand your socialization patterns
This is where our ability as parents to be flexible and positive comes in. As long as our child shows respectful and friendly behaviour, we don’t need to pressure him/her to socialise on the basis of our standards or those of the immediate environment . Parents who are constantly worried about their children “leaving them badly” in front of other people, simply act on the basis of rigid and conventional parameters of socialization. Demonstrating to our child that we care very much about what they think of us (through their attitude, to make matters worse) is a way of transmitting that we feel ashamed of them. Fighting for him to act the way we want him to act will only cause the relationship to wear down and the teenager will not be able to adapt freely to the social environment.
4. Beware of the idea of “him doing what I didn’t do”
Our personal expectations of what we want our teenager to be in the future can be very limiting to his or her personal development. We must understand what our real motivations are with respect to our child’s future, and from there decide how demanding we should be with him or her. In any case, we must avoid placing on him the burden of our expectations and desires . Our wishes and reflections on what we have achieved in life or what we want to achieve are personal and non-transferable, and it is not right for us to transfer these desires to our children. They must walk their own path and fight for their goals.
5. Everyone should learn from their mistakes
Most parents are not able to recognize that we feel validated and qualified through our children. And, although it is hard to acknowledge, it is the first step to understanding many things and improving our relationship with them. If our child makes a mistake, he or she must assume the consequences , even if this hurts us and we feel it is our duty to help him or her. We will always be there to give them the necessary support, but children need us to give them the necessary space to make these mistakes that will allow them to learn, become aware of their responsibilities in life and mature.
6. Emotions should not boycott me
Self-observation should be a fundamental pillar in our reflection on the attitudes and actions we take as parents. We must try to see a little beyond the tangible and identify our emotions and feelings. In this way, when we feel blocked or distressed, we will be able to reflect and detect what we are feeling, and how to manage that emotion . Making self-observation a habit in our daily lives is especially useful in interacting with adolescent children, especially to identify when they are testing us and to show an assertive and relaxed attitude, and therefore control the situation. In this way we will be able to act in the way we think is most precise and necessary, and not from reactivity or from anger.
By way of closure…
I hope that these small tips and reflections can be useful when it comes to understanding our children’s adolescence as a necessary process for their development at all levels . A process, that of adolescence, that we must accompany in an intelligent way. We must understand that adolescents need to detach themselves from parental protection and begin to be independent in order to become, in the near future, responsible adults with their own goals in life.