There is a difference between loving and liking your teen. You know it’s time to reconnect when you know you love your kid, but you don’t really like him.
I recently met a mom at one of my workshops. She is having a hard time reconnecting with her son, who was easy to know until recently. Once he hit high school though, their relationship began to change. He wants more independence, and she gets that. She allows him to be out with his friends and do his thing without nagging him.
After being left alone, his grades started to drop. His behavior at school started to change. And the worst part was that he shut her out.
He didn’t have time for his mom anymore, and man, it was hurting her.
Without realizing it, she starting to take the, “If you’re going to shut me out, you can figure it out on your own” approach.
For a teen boy, this may seem like what he wants most, but it’s not. He has a world inside of him, and he has very few tools to navigate these swirling tides of his emotions and responsibilities. Not surprisingly, he shut down further.
I could see that the material I was presenting was landing with her. She was taking it in and she was very present for the duration of the workshop. Afterwards, she approached me and said the most amazing thing.
“My heart feels open to my son for the first time in a while. I didn’t realize how hard it has been to be rejected by him, and how angry I am, and how hurt I feel.”
You are changing
One of the things parents of teens don’t get enough acknowledgment of is this: you too are going through a life change too. Your baby is growing up and away from you. You may feel the press of time to make memories, right the wrongs, and reconnect.
But you may struggle to find harmony with this emerging adult who used to want to marry you.
This mom’s unaddressed emotions were widening the gap between her and her son. And it was closing her heart towards him. Luckily, she has enough tools to reconnect.
If you feel like you are just pissed at your teen all the time, it makes sense. Raising today’s teens is difficult.
But also factor in that both of you are crossing a threshold. It’s painful to separate, and it’s hard to redefine a relationship with someone who is moody and vacillates between being awesome and impossible.
Choose to reconnect every now and then
When you get into the heart space again, you can do what I recommended to this mom: write your teen a list of all the things you like about him. Date it, and put it somewhere you won’t lose it. Then randomly, when he leaves for college or finally moves out, send it to him. I used to do this with my students and it thrilled them to receive these letters 5 years later.
Parenting is a marathon that involves strength of body, heart and mind. When you can, find your way back to your heart, and parent from there. You don’t need to always be there–just remember it’s a powerful option when the relationship gets away from you.
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