Parents and Teens: You will be amiss if you dismiss
“My parents don’t take me seriously! ” “ My teen is disrespectful and fights with me on everything!”
I have heard versions of this concern from adolescents and their parents in my therapy practice for many years. Other versions include:
“ I can’t talk to my mom, she will think it’s a joke”. “My teen thinks I don’t know anything.”
“My parents think only they have stress in their lives and my life is easy.” “My teen only thinks of herself and in so selfish.”
“They think my feelings toward my boyfriend is just puppy love and not real.” “They don’t realize I have a life besides being their parent.”
"My parents spend more time on their smart phone and Facebook than I do - they don’t even listen to me when I try to talk to them.” “My teen spends more time on their smart phone and Instagram than any other activity; they don’t even listen to me when I try to talk to them.”
As is the case in all relational activity, you see the mirroring that starts to go on. So the key to transforming undesirable dynamics is for it to be a team effort:
I work with teens to be open, patient and not blame-y toward their parents. After all, parents are under a lot of pressure too, and did not get a guidebook on how to raise YOU. I also help adolescents look honestly at the ways they are dismissive and do not listen to their parents. I offer the famous motto that they need to be the change they want to see in others. I think this helps the young people in my practice take responsibility for helping to improve their relationships with parents.
It is a killer of building trusting relationships when parents are not able or willing to value the struggles, emotions, and thoughts of their teens. So for the parent side of the equation, I invite them to relate to their teens like they would a respected adult. How? Be curious, non-lecture-y and listen with an open mind and heart. Hard, I know, but it might just create channels of love, communication and closeness that are worth the challenge.
Next time you want to blow off your kid / your parent: Stop, look and listen instead.