“In most ways, kids are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. Nuts. But in most ways, the world around them is incomprehensibly different. And also nuts… It is an adolescent world different from the one you recall… When your son tells you that you 'don't understand' trust him. You don't. Neither do I. He lives in a culture foreign to both of us.” (From the book, Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy! by Michael J. Bradley, Ed.D)
If teenagers (and parents) are much the same, and it is the world that has changed around us, then it’s time for a new approach.
Do you find yourself using the same techniques and responses over and over with your teen, with the same results? Are they sometimes the ones your parents used on you and you swore never to use them with your own children? Have you heard the definition of insanity? It is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results.
So how do you begin to create different results? Many parents share that their number one concern in parenting a teen is the ‘communication gap.’ They feel that if they can somehow have a meaningful conversation, they stand a chance of helping their child through these baffling years. Their friends want to help, but they don’t have the wisdom and experience that parents have. You have your child’s best interest at heart, and you want to be the one he turns to when there’s something important going on.
The first step to opening the door to a conversation (of more than two or three sentences), is to acknowledge what your child is feeling. Kids don’t want to be told how to do it better (“Did you try…?”) or that they are silly for feeling the way they do (“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re good at basketball. You just need to practice.”). They want someone to listen. Hmm. I know I’ve felt this way, too, and I’ve been around a lot longer. Imagine how much more critical it is for your 15-year old to just be heard.
Don’t fix, don’t judge, don’t critique. Just listen. Then listen some more. Eventually they’ll get the idea that it’s okay to share with you, even if you don’t always understand. And if you don’t understand, ask them to explain it to you. They may protest, but they really do want you to know. You can be their ‘safe haven’ in the midst of the insanity.
(For more support, visit www.fernweis.com.)