A parent connecting with one’s adolescent child – easy to say, difficult to put into practice sometimes. Simona Mocioi, a couples therapist with training in Emotion Centred Therapy, and Psychological Counsellor talked to us about the difficult period called – adolescence. For both parents and children, this period is filled with trials and challenges that test the relationship between them intensely. It is important, as a parent, to know how to manage the relationship with the teenager next to you. Read on to find out what difficulties may arise and how to overcome them.
The ”family with teenagers” stage – the transition from childhood to adolescence
Among the stages of family life, one of the most difficult and important is the “family with teenagers” stage. This stage involves increasing the flexibility of the family boundaries to allow the adolescent to move more freely inside and outside the family system. However, it also involves that parents refocus on their careers and on taking care of the older generation.
What difficulties arise during the transition period from childhood to adolescence?
The difficulty of transitioning from being the parent of a toddler/primary school child to that of an adolescent is easy to understand for anyone who has lived with or witnessed life with a teenager. Almost overnight, you go from being the parent desired and requested to take part at all times in the child’s life, the parent who knows everything and solves everything, to the parent who knows nothing, who “doesn’t understand anything”. You can turn into the parent who is not even allowed to express an opinion, and if he/she does, there are risks of unleashing waves of anger.
During adolescence, that is, starting from the age of 12 and up until the age of 24, the most intense process of growth and maturation of the brain compared to the rest of the entire lifespan takes place.
This process determines the following characteristics of the mind at this age:
- novelty seeking,
- social involvement,
- increased emotional intensity,
- creative exploration.
These characteristics influence the way in which teenagers seek satisfaction:
- they reject stereotypes,
- they prefer bonding with equals,
- they seek intense feelings and uncommon experiences.
Given this context, it is understandable why, without quick adaptation to the new demands of the child, the parent risks “losing” the adolescent train. This is a consequence of the fact that he/she was trying to impose oneself just as one did a few years back. Parental control becomes just a utopia. Imposing a way of life to the rebellious teenager deteriorates the relationship between the latter and his/her parents.
In response to the deterioration of the relationship, some parents choose to step up control. Other parents try to become their children’s friends. But there are also parents who simply give up the fight. They give the teenager complete freedom. It should be noted that this renunciation occurs both because of the problems that parents face in their own lives, and can also occur when the adolescent’s behavioural problems are very serious (addictions, anti-social behaviours, etc.).
What should be kept in mind is that parents should continue to be parents and not friends, tyrants, guardians or prisoners.
Being the parent of a teenager means making oneself available, first and foremost. Then you must be appropriately affectionate, consistent with the rules/requirements established in collaboration with the adolescent. It is necessary to be supportive and understanding during difficult times, but not overly visible in the social environment of the child. Be in control in “soft” mode. Listen and understand what is not being said.
Do not judge or impose patterns of behaviour
Do not be afraid to tell your child: “I am here, tell me if there is anything I can help you with” or “I realize how hard it is for you, how can I help you?”. Make time for your child! Quality time does not mean trips abroad or expensive outings on the town. Cook a pizza together and then play Catan. Tell your child that you care and you would like to know him/her better, as he/she is now, not as he/she should be.
Be present in your child’s life and connect with him/her!
Being present in your child’s life and being connected to him/her means inhibiting your very strong temptation to find solutions to his/her problems. Just try to be there for them in the process of exploring these solutions. Your solutions are your solutions, and the adolescent needs to find one’s own solutions to one’s problems. He/she has the right to learn from one’s own mistakes and does so best when he/she knows one has a safety base in one’s parents. That he/she will not be criticized when he/she fails, but only helped to mend and encouraged to move forward.
Connecting as a parent to an adolescent child is important, but how to do so?
To connect or reconnect with your teenager, use every opportunity to involve him or her in family decisions, especially if they concern him or her. The high school that he/she will attend, the next vacation, the Easter menu, the next movie to be seen at the cinema. Thusly, discover and acknowledge his/her abilities, ask him/her for advice on a problem, ask him/her to help you understand something. Show him/her that he/she is superior to you in a field, whatever that field may be. Ask him/her to look up a recipe or translate something for you.
Admit to it yourself when you are wrong and apologize for getting angry. Show him/her the human side of you and not the perfect side. Tell him/her when you are going through a hard time and ask for his/her opinion. Sometimes you may discover an amazing and extremely mature mind. Make him/her feel seen, accepted and valued!
The relationship with a teenager is full of challenges. Schedule an individual meeting with Simona to reconnect with the teenager next to you. Talk to a parenting specialist, to provide you with another perspective. It’s always easier with ATLAS!