My Teen Hates Me!
Do you ever get the feeling your teen hates you…that they don’t want you around? You know the scenario: teens don’t smile or interact at home but as soon as they see friends they perk up, smile, and interact with great energy. Or, teens, embarrassed by their parent’s simple remark, roll their eyes and say, “Maw-awm,” in their best agitated tone, “You can leave now!” Such scenarios can make a parent feel unloved. Don’t worry; your teen does love you. But, they are also beginning to develop their own life. They are exploring their independent sense of self in the world. To do so, they push against you (their parent) and become more intensely involved with their peers. They find companionship and support with other teens who are engaged in the same transition and the same struggles as them. Strong connections with other teens provide teens with an accepting environment in which to explore their emerging selves and abilities in the world outside of family. Research even suggests your teens’ positive peer relationships provide the best predictor of well-being and happiness throughout their life. Daniel Siegel refers to our teens’ drive for peer relationships as Social Engagement, a crucial aspect of our adolescents’ ESSENCE (read The ESSENCE of Adolescence and The Emotional Spark of your Adolescent’s ESSENCE for more). Unfortunately, all this can also mean your teens distance themselves from you, their parent. You may feel the distance as a loss or even emptiness at times. It may also increase your anxiety and worry. But, never forget, your teen does still love you. They still need you. They just need growing independence as well. How can you balance your teen’s need for independence with their need to stay connected to you? Try these 6 tips.
- Pay attention to your teen’s inner life. Don’t get too caught up in their grumpy looks, rolling eyes, and impatient gestures. Instead, get curious about the emotions and thoughts behind these outward signs. Let them engage you in their philosophical discussions and emotional rants. Listen closely and you will learn about their developing inner world of thoughts, values, concerns, fears, and interests.
- Accept your teen. You may endure ever-changing moods and constantly shifting interests. Accept your teen and their shifts as they explore their emerging self. Encourage. Listen. Support. Express, through words and actions, that you want them to become themselves and achieve their dreams, not your dreams.
- Provide a safe haven for you teen. Create a home environment in which they feel safe, accepted and loved no matter wat. Let home be a place they can come to let their guard down, talk about anything from homework to their anger at you to the temptations they face at school. Accept the conversations as loving invitations into their private world of developing thoughts and ideas. Make your home a place they can turn to for support, encouragement, and guidance when the risks make them nervous.
- Trust your teen to manage risk. Teens engage in risky behaviors that stem from their need to explore the world. Allow your teen to step beyond their comfort zone. Even more difficult, allow your teen to step beyond your comfort zone.
- Focus on connecting with your teen. Connecting is even more important than correcting in many instances. If you take the time to connect with your teen you will find less need to correct. Your teen will also respond to your correction more readily when you have a strong connection with them.
- Be present with your teens when they encounter difficulties. Don’t try to fix the problem; simply be present with them. Be aware and sensitive to what is happening. Tune in to how the problem is impacting them emotionally, mentally, socially, and even physically. Remain open to how various situations impact your own inner life as well. Engage in a conversation around the emotions, thoughts, and meaning of various difficulties. You might be surprised as a solution naturally arises.
Practice these six tips and you will find your teen feels secure in their relationship with you. Home will become a secure base from which they can go with their peers to safely explore their place in the world away from home and a safe haven to which they can return when difficulties arise. Most important, you will watch your teen will mature in amazing ways.