This is the time when most parents begin to feel like their relationship with their children has become a fog. Boundaries and decision making becomes hazy, and there is no clear indicator of how long it will take for the clouds of confusion to lift. It is a complicated season that is accentuated by changing hormones and an ultimate struggle for individual freedom.
There is a tendency for parents to disengage with kids during the teenage years, when they should actually redefine their role, and re-engage. Parents just need to be reminded to stay flexible and use this phase as an opportunity to re-adjust their parenting style. In order to do that, you will have to refuse to buy into certain myths that so many parents believe about their relationship with their teenagers. Here are a few:
Myth: My teenager doesn’t want to spend any time with me.
Reality: They really DO want to spend time with you.
They just want to spend time with you when they want to spend time with you.
I know it may be hard to believe, but it’s true. According to the Opinion Research Corporation, about 67% of the teens in America want to spend MORE time with their parents. No. I am not suggesting that they want to spend most of their free time with you. They are teenagers. Just because they may not take the initiative in working on their relationship with you, does not negate that they desire and value a positive relationship with you as a parent. Don’t make the mistake of assuming, when there seems to be a shift of loyalty and attention to other friends, that their relationship with you is not important to them. Don’t take it personally, and choose to believe, that your teenagers need time with you, regardless of how anyone is acting. And decide that it’s your responsibility as the parent and the adult, to take the initiative to pursue a healthy relationship with them.
Myth: When we spend time together it doesn’t make a difference.
Reality: It will make a difference, but you will rarely see immediate results.
Most counselors will advise parents that their consistent attempts to spend time with their teenagersgive them a needed sense of security and approval. Our problem as parents is that we hope to see some immediate consequence when we spend time with our children. But isn’t that unrealistic? Try to remember when you were a teenager. I know that may be a stretch for some of you. Did you ever actually say to your mom or dad, “I will treasure the time we spent together today for the rest of my life. It was so meaningful”? Teenagers just don’t do that. You didn’t, and your kids won’t. But it doesn’t mean that something meaningful isn’t happening. The most important moments that have happened with your children were probably the moments that you didn’t feel were important at the time they happened.
Myth: I need to make time a priority with my son/daughter so we can have teachable moments.
Reality: I need to make time a priority with my son/daughter so we can have enjoyable moments.
Think about the relationships you enjoy the most. How much do you like spending time with people who are always trying to teach you something? More than likely, over time you will start avoiding relationships with people who usually have an agenda. It’s just exhausting emotionally. That’s why you tend to build friendships with people you actually enjoy being around. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself a hard question: “Do my children actually enjoy being around me?” Please don’t over analyze this question and get paranoid, or you could over compensate and make things awkward for your kids (like forcing your teenagers to play “go fish” with you tonight). Just relax, and decide you are going to take some time to learn how to enjoy a relationship with your teenager.
Find some common activities that you will both enjoy. Decide it’s okay to make having fun together a priority. Every walk, drive, meal or experience cannot and should not be a teaching moment. You actually stand a better chance of learning together, when you learn how to enjoy being together.
Too many parents give up during the teenage years and buy into these myths. Keep fighting for your relationship so your son or daughter will always know that they were and always will be a priority to you. And one day, probably not until they have children, they will understand how much you really love them.
Have you bought into any of these myths? Feel free add to the list.