Are you a parent of adolescents? Do you find yourself sometimes (or often) feeling frustrated, angry, hopeless, overwhelmed, or all of the above? Do you identify with the above statement?
I do. I’m not afraid to be honest. There are times where I have actually thought to myself, “Why did we even have kids?” At times I feel unappreciated, angry and frustrated. There are times when I wish they would make better decisions (or the decisions that *I* think are better) and there are times where I am just plain scared, wondering if they will even make it through these years alive or at least without being scarred permanently.
Please don’t judge me, I’m just being honest. But videos like this one remind me that my kids still need me, no matter how old they are, no matter how distant I may perceive them to be, no matter how unappreciated I might feel, rightly or wrongly. I also know that when researchers into adolescent behaviour pull them aside and talk to them, they admit that they secretly DO really like spending time with their parents, that they DO still need them. And that they WISH their parents would stop having an agenda and simply have a relationship with them.
Do you wish you didn’t identify with the title of this post? Do you want to start really enjoying your teens?
One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard talk on adolescents and parenting challenged the audience to think about the last time they went in to their teenagers bedroom with the ONLY agenda being to connect with them. Not to tell them to clean up their room, not to ask them why they didn’t put the rubbish out, not to hassle them about their homework or threaten to take some privilege away from them because they’re upset with them; rather to simply be “present” with them.
I realised that I NEVER did that with my teenagers!
As parents, we generally do that sort of thing with our children all the time when they are much younger; we love to simply be with them and delight in them and in all the wondrous things they are doing and learning. But somehow, over time, our relationship becomes all about tasks and goals and discipline and making sure they become the young man or woman the we believe they ought to be.
So I started doing it, just being “present” with my kids. It felt awkward at first, no doubt for them as well, but it’s become something amazing. Most nights when I get home from work now, I go in to my 17 year old son’s bedroom and just sit and chat. No agenda. No plan. Just connection.
Getting back to the video above, what I REALLY love about it is the image where mum, dad and teen are at the table with a sign that reads, “Mutual Respect.” I am far, far from a perfect parent, but one of the greatest things I have learned as a parent, and I attribute this completely to the extensive research and reading that my wife has done, is that mutual respect is a cornerstone of a good relationship with your teens.
Have you ever stopped and listened to how parents speak to their kids in the supermarket? I have. There are times when I hear myself in them and I feel so ashamed knowing that I have spoken to my kids in the same way. There are times where I am absolutely horrified at how rude a parent can be towards their child. You would NEVER speak to a friend or family member or colleague like that, so how can you speak to your own child like that? And yet I know I’m guilty of it too.
There’s also a brief reference to social media in the above video clip, so I thought it might be timely to add a link to this article “Five Myths About Young People and Social Media.”
Recently we were out to lunch, my wife and I, with our four kids. I began to feel frustrated as I looked around the table. The 19 and 16 year olds were both on their smart phones, the 13 year old was sitting there looking terribly bored (probably wishing he had a smart phone, too!) and the youngest one, aged 10, was glued to the iPad. I quietly expressed my frustration to my wife who decided not to join me in my angst, but to try a different approach.
She grabbed her iPad out of her bag and found a funny clip on Facebook and showed it to me. Of course, even though I was frustrated, I couldn’t help but laugh. That got the kids attention who asked what we were looking at and we showed them. All of a sudden, they started showing us funny stuff on their smart phones and iPad too. I then got my phone out and looked up something funny that I had remembered seeing in the past. Before we knew it we’d spent a good 20 minutes sharing stuff around the table and all laughing hysterically making an awful racket for all the other lunch time diners.
Maybe it’s time we all tried looking at technology from a different angle, to try and find ways that it can benefit us rather than ways it can divide us as a family, or distance us from our teenagers. Let’s respect their enjoyment of their technological devices, and let’s also be people they actually want to spend time with!
So, what are you going to do after reading this? I suggest one of two things;
- Go and be “present” with your teenager, or
- Go show them something funny on Facebook or You Tube and begin the journey towards a more relaxed relationship with mutual respect as your goal. Trust me, they’ll see it, learn from it, and model it too.
And here’s a great little quote to think about too:
“The guts of resilience is rooted in a sense of belonging. It’s one of the easiest ways to minimise the risk of self-harming, suicide, depression, anxiety and substance use in the young person. The number one most powerful thing you can do in connecting with a young person, whether that be your child or not, is be prepared to drop everything and be an authentic listener.” Andrew Fuller, Child Psychologist, “Generation Next.” May, 2013, Sydney.
Good luck in your journey,