n an earlier blog, I went over my model for growth for teens that deals with the struggles they bring in as symptoms of something deeper that is going on inside their character, and which must be addressed so that there is true health and wholeness. So then the question becomes, how do you get to that deeper issue inside their adolescents, so they will be strong, on track and happy? What is the path to finding those issues? How do you “scratch below the surface?” As you may know as a parent, lots of teens aren’t all that crazy about opening up to Mom and Dad. But there is a lot you can do. This blog will cover those aspects.
Require dedicated time for talking. You can’t talk to a kid without having time. Dedicated, focused time to talk. These days, we are all so busy that we don’t create space to have the talks to get to know what is really going on with our teens. We, or they, are driving to events, going to work or school, going to social gatherings. Meals are flying by. Besides that, your teen is on the way out of her nest. She is developing friendships and interests outside of the home, as she should be, because that is the path of growth. But that means you, as the parent, need to put more intentional energy into those times in which you talk. Better yet, in which you listen.
Here’s a tip: schedule two sacred times a week with your teen and call them “catch up times.” The conversation goes something like this: “As you are getting older, we need to have some times that are just to stay in contact because we love you and want to stay in touch.” They will probably gripe, but make it during family dinner or take a walk. Keep it no more than 30 minutes. After a while, they relax and generally start opening up about struggles, school, frustrations, losses, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. It will be work, but it usually doesn’t happen without a dedicated time.
Keep safety. We all need to know a relationship is safe for us to open up. You may disagree with what your teen says or thinks, but you should never condemn or judge. Listen well, interact, enter their world. Then tell them what you agree and disagree with. Set any necessary limits on toxic behavior. But not a hint of “you are worthless, you should be ashamed, you are no good” talking. No one opens up without safety.
Help them find what is going on underneath. Most kids are circumstance-oriented. They are into their friends, recreation, online activities, school, church, sports, art, etc. It is all about the events and the activities. But there are deep waters swirling underneath these, in your teen’s mind. They may be scared of failure, or be entitled and think the world revolves around them, or be hyper-rebellious and resist obeying rules. Whatever it is, bring it out to them as a query: “Could it be that your anger at Dad and me is because we are the rule-setters and you don’t think our rules are fair?” Or, “I wonder if inside you are a bit nervous that people will see fault in you and judge you?” They may say there is no way these queries are true, and dismiss you. Don’t worry about that. Part of your adolescent’s mind heard that and recorded that. It will not be easily forgotten.
Set the limits so that the issue emerges. Finally, keep healthy house rules and boundaries, and enforce them. Teens hate structure but they need it. If you don’t stick with the consequences, they will never face themselves, their failures and their feelings. They will instead be out of control and not happy. But when you set and keep boundaries, your home is the oven that turns up the heat gently. And when they can’t overcome your boundaries, kids learn to open up about their fears and inner world.
If you are trying to connect with your teen in these ways and things are breaking down, it might be time to contact Compass Rose. The professionals there are highly trained to walk your child through the path of “getting to the root” and returning to a great, high functioning normal state.