It’s no secret that the relationship between a teen and their parents is complicated during high school and college years. In addition to raging hormones and wanting to test the boundaries, teens often stop communicating with their parents, because it’s not “cool” to talk to them about most things, or in general. If you’re going through this, you’re not alone. Almost all parents come across this problem. How you respond, though, will either make or break your relationship with your teen for years to come. By fostering a true connection with your teen through authentic communication, you’ll create a dialogue and dynamic where you and your teen see the other for who they truly are, drop the expectations and judgments and hear each other in a productive way.
Authentically communicating with your teen may sound difficult, but the best things in life always take work. Fortunately, it isn’t impossible. Here are five simple ways that you can improve communication and create a positive foundation in your relationship with your teen for years to come.
1. Leave the Past in the Past
Dwelling on the past or things that have already happened won’t do you or your teen any good. In fact, it will strain a relationship and communication efforts if either of you brings up hurtful comments, actions or mistakes. It’s also a huge waste of both of your energy. Good introspection as a parent always begins with asking yourself, “By me saying or doing this, will this bring us closer together or further apart?”
Remember, you can’t take back whatever happened, so instead, give yourselves permission to let it go, wipe the slate clean, and move forward. It’s also important to make a commitment to operate only in a forward-facing or present state of mind. Trust us, we know this is difficult and not always realistic. Parents are humans too! If you’re struggling to let something go that constantly rears itself in a negative way when it comes to your relationship with your child, reach out to us for guidance. The same goes for if you feel like they harbor resentment towards you for whatever reason. Holding on to resentment and not communicating is toxic for any relationship.
2. Manage Expectations
Nothing hurts more than someone failing to meet our expectations, regardless of who they are. This is even truer when your teen may not rise to your expectations about how they behave, how they should perform in school and how they should communicate. Set yourself up for success by dropping any preconceived ideas of how your teen should behave/perform. By dropping these expectations and judgments, you’re more likely to respond to less-than-ideal situations calmly and you’ll open the door to having healthy communication with your teen.
It’s important to note as parents, your roles shift drastically during the teenage years, especially for how much you should be involved as a motivator for your teen. Their drive for motivation to do well in school and extracurricular activities must come from themselves as much as it comes from parents or peers otherwise it becomes meaningless to them in the long haul.
If you’re constantly feeling like you have to nag your teen to do their homework, study for their test or prepare for their SAT/ACT, chances are they may have a deficit in their internal motivation. Know when to shift roles from being a director (like you were when they were younger) to a facilitator (someone who fosters their independence, autonomy, and self-motivation, in your teen). After all, they’ll be off to college soon and we want to empower your teen to not only be able to survive on their own, but to thrive! Ask them, “What expectations do you hold for yourself if mom and dad no longer had any for you?” A mix of self, friends, and family driving their motivation is both healthy and adaptive. If their answer is that their motivation is based solely on you, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional.
Good Stuff, Am I Right? Keep Reading for Part 2.
About the Author: Travis McNulty, LMHC, GAL
Travis McNulty is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of McNulty Counseling and Wellness in St. Petersburg, FL. Stressed out parents who have nowhere left to turn are his forte as he has worked with thousands of children/teens and their parents to improve communication while restoring loving and communicative relationships. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults by implementing empirically supported cognitive behavioral therapy combined with humanistic psychology to promote balance in the lives of his clients from a holistic perspective. Providing parenting support, guiding communication changes, and collaborating with parents by answering some of the most difficult questions that they face leaves them feeling assured that they’re doing the best job possible as parents. Travis and his team of expert clinicians are proud to work alongside Ashley Rodrigues of Ashley Rodrigues Wellness to regularly provide insight on challenging topics related to positive holistic psychology. “ Ashley truly understands the mind-body connection by offering yoga and psychology services which is why I’m so happy to collaborate with her on difficult cases and admire her as an esteemed colleague. “