Parenting a teenager evokes a powerful combination of conflicting emotions: pride and worry, joy and frustration. Indeed, this phase of life can be just as challenging for parents as it is for their kids!
The parent-child relationship fundamentally changes as your children turn into young adults. While this transformation is rewarding to witness, it also forces you to adapt your parenting style so that you’re less of a manager and more of a trusted consultant.
The Individuation Process
Many parents fear that they’ll lose their connection to their children as they navigate the rocky teen years. Teenangers are often written off as having difficult attitudes and wanting nothing to do with their parents, but these cliches don’t tell the whole story.
What’s really happening is that teens are going through the process of individuation and forming their own independent identities.
Individuation can be distressing for parents, as it manifests in ways that aren’t always pleasant. Your teen may become self-absorbed or defensive, and they’ll likely want to spend less time with you than they used to.
Although these changes are perfectly normal, the process can be confusing, hurtful and even a little scary for even the most understanding parent. But creating a safe space for your child’s individuation process is crucial to maintaining a happy and healthy parenting relationship.
Evolving Your Parenting Style from Managerial to Consulting
While it might seem like your child is pushing you away, the truth is that they still need you during this turbulent phase of their life! Teens are faced with high-stakes decisions every day, from navigating peer pressure and romantic relationships to choosing their path post-graduation.
They need someone they trust to guide them through these decisions. That someone can be you. But here’s the catch-22: the more you try to manage their obstacles or insert yourself into their decision-making process, the more your teen will turn away. They need to feel independent and autonomous—and if you ignore that need, you’ll push them in the wrong direction.
So, how should your behavior evolve to best support your teen? Here are a few suggestions:
- Make your home a judgment-free zone. Kids absorb cues that you may not even realize you’re giving. Have you inadvertently conveyed that you view failing a test as a sign of weakness? Your teen will be less likely to approach you for help if they do poorly on an exam. Be mindful of how you express your feelings and opinions so that you don’t shut down conversations before they begin.
- Spend quality time together. Simple activities like running errands or eating dinner together create space for open communication between you and your kid. The more you can be available without them having to seek you out, the more chances they’ll have to open up to you.
- Respect boundaries. As important as it is to be available for your teen, don’t take it personally when they aren’t interested in talking. Respect their space by not prying or forcing them into a conversation. What they may need most is peace and quiet, and honoring that could help them more than you realize.
- Reinforce your support. We all need to be reminded that the people who love us want to be there for us. Teenagers are no exception. Every now and then, remind your kid that you’re a safe person for them to go to if they need to talk or want guidance.
Ultimately, you want to create an environment where your teen will come to you. Take the initiative in adjusting your own behavior to build their trust in you as a reliable confidante.
Evolving your parenting role from manager to consultant is a form of letting go. You give your child more autonomy to be their authentic self, and you give up some of your own control in the process.
It’s no small feat, and wherever you are in that process, I applaud you.
Love and Blessings,
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