Not so long ago, I was attached to a child almost all day, every day. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without a desperate toddler following me and asking to enter. I even yearned for some time that I could reliably have to myself. I finally got this when my kids were, well, all in school.
However, I was unprepared when my children began to enter preteen age and wanted nothing to do with me. Now it’s almost impossible to get my 15 year old son and 12 year old daughter to spend time with me. Sometimes I feel more like a walking wallet than a parent. The only time I can count on them to come see me is when they want new clothes, video games, or money for fast food.
Even though my kids may be content to see me as nothing more than a source of hot meals and an ATM, I still enjoy spending time with them and want to make sure they don’t wander off. Also way too fast.
And so I found ways to get my older kids to spend time with me. I try to find one-on-one time with each of them at least once a month, doing something they choose. Sometimes it’s seeing the latest blockbuster or going to your favorite restaurant. Other times, we binge watch a show they really like. What’s nice about my kids growing up is that there are more activities that we all enjoy. However, I also learned a long time ago that if my tween or teen asks me to do something, I Never say no, even if it sounds incredibly boring.
What other ways to navigate the complex issue of estranged teens while keeping them in the family? Here’s what the experts recommend – and what works for other parents.
It’s not you – it’s them
As painful as it can be for parents to watch their children grow from a nice sidekick to a surly teenager who wants nothing to do with them, it’s all part of the growing up process. “It’s incredibly important to feel a sense of control over our own lives, and that’s why independence is so important for teens,” says Lin Sternlicht, therapist and co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist, “Independence brings success and happiness.”
“The process of gaining independence is a healthy part of development, as adolescents become themselves and develop skills that will make them independent people. [person] outside of the family,” adds Danielle Selvin Harris, clinical director of Oaks Psych Services and a psychologist who specializes in working with adolescents.
If parents resist giving teenagers enough independence, Sternlicht warns that their attempts to keep them close will likely backfire. “If teens aren’t independent, they may rebel and resist their parents’ advice just out of spite,” Sternlicht told Yahoo Life.
But it’s important to find a balance
Although they yearn for independence, teenagers must also maintain a connection with their family. “It’s important to have time to bond in order to nurture family relationships,” says Sternlicht.
Dr. Ross Goodwin, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente, points out that maintaining a relationship with a teenager is essential because “a major difference between teenagers who are developing normally and those who are experiencing significant mental health issues is the extent to which they feel they can confide in their parents. While an adolescent’s independence and peer relationships grow in importance as they develop into adolescence, the parental relationship remains crucial, even if parents do not always receive this sense of their teenager.
So how do parents find that balance?
One way is to “maintain a reliable, consistent listening relationship so your teen knows they can confide in you,” Goodwin says. “Ask open-ended questions and create a space where conversations can take place. Be curious about your teen’s interests and support your teen by participating in clubs or extracurricular activities that cultivate their interests. »
Harris adds that it’s important for parents to set expectations for family time and involve their teen in decisions about how that happens. Harris says some families in her firm pick a day of the week when they agree everyone will be home for dinner. Others reserve Sunday mornings for family time.
“If you have some sort of routine and reasonable expectations for your teen, they’re more likely to stick to it,” she explains. Families that adopt this type of system must establish clear rules and be consistent. “Teenagers have a hard time conforming when the rules aren’t clear. For example, if you let them go out all weekend and then tell them the next weekend that you want them to come home because they were gone all weekend, they won’t understand or won’t think it’s fair,” Harris told Yahoo Life.
A mother of three, Kimberly King took this approach with her children when they were teenagers. “Our goal was three sit-down dinners a week. The phones are put away. Everyone helps set the table and get ready. And then we sat down and talked about our day,” she says.
Sometimes there will be non-negotiable events, like a wedding or a younger sibling’s school play, that require a teenager’s presence outside of the normal routine. When this happens, Harris recommends telling your teen why the event is important and telling them about it as soon as possible. However, Harris adds that “if they really don’t want to go, ask them why and listen to find out if there’s some sort of compromise you can make. For example: can they leave the dinner party big- mother at 8 p.m. to go to their friend’s party?” Harris explains that if you find a compromise that works for everyone, you’re also helping your teen develop “problem-solving skills and showing that you respect them”.
How to Convince Teens to Hang Out With You
Developing a strong relationship with a teenager is the best way to make him want to spend time with you. Sarah Rollins, clinical social worker specializing in adolescent mental health and owner of Embodied Wellness Therapy, says parents should consistently focus on the good, even if it’s hard. “Sometimes it’s hard to notice the positives or the successes when there are a lot of problems…but it’s important for parents to validate their teens and celebrate their successes or else their teen won’t want to spend time with them. them.”
Kerri Cooper, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Holistic Therapy, points out that when trying to convince your teen to spend time with you, it’s important to consider their preferences. “Let your teen make suggestions,” she says. “Where is their favorite place to have dinner?” Most teens love a free lunch and if they pick the spot, they’re likely to go. Get involved in their interests, whether it’s hiking, skiing, or maybe even a cup of coffee at their favorite spot. The key is to plan ahead and try to meet their needs.
Linda Nguyen takes this approach with her daughter. She makes it a point to listen to the same music as her daughter so they can “bond” and says that “when it comes to spending quality time together, I give her a few options to choose from so that ‘She feels included in the decision-making process and not forced.’
Harris also reminds parents that sometimes teens and tweens want to spend more time with their friends. it’s not about not wanting to spend time with their parents. Jenna Carson, who has a 12-year-old child, is trying to balance her daughter’s desire to hang out with friends with her own desire to spend time with her daughter. To make them both happy, Carson allows his tween to invite a friend over for family outings. If she can’t come up with any fun ideas, she waits for her teen’s best friend to come over and asks them what they’d like to do.
What not to do when teens agree to hang out with you
If a parent convinces their teen to spend time with them, it’s important to spend that time wisely. Rollins advises parents to stay away from stressful topics. “A lot of parents want to enjoy a movie or an ice cream with their [teen] while simultaneously bringing up the 13 missed assignments they have,” she notes. “If parents talk about unpleasant topics during enjoyable activities, teenagers won’t want to spend time with them.
Instead, focus on light topics and have fun. Rollins points out that parents should always address missing homework, but they should choose another time to bring up the topic. And if a teenager brings up a difficult topic, parents should discuss it because the teenager is ready. However, Rollins advises parents to refrain from being judgmental. “Teenagers want to share their lives with you, but they fear that you will judge them or their friends. If you can listen, be supportive and remain neutral, you will become their confidant,” she says.
How parents can deal with teenagers who no longer want to spend time with them
Parents may view the time their teens spend away from them as an opportunity for them to learn important life skills and make mistakes before they fly away for good. According to Goodwin, “Parents should…cultivate opportunities [for teens] to grow and practice independence while having safe support in place when things don’t go as planned.
According to Harris, parents can rejoice that when teens begin to separate from their families, “it’s a sign that they’re maturing and can be successful as adults without you.” She urges parents to remember “that your teenager is drifting away from your family because you did a great job as a parent in helping him become his own person.”
Harris also says parents shouldn’t give up on their teen spending time with them. “Remember that your teenager still needs you, even if he acts like he just wants to be with his friends all the time,” she says. “The more you show up for him and show him respect, the more he will want to open up to you and spend time with you too.
There’s a silver lining for teens wandering off. Harris encourages parents at this stage of life to further explore their own interests with their newfound free time. Woodworking or hot yoga, anyone?
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