At consultations, we hear so often from parents that they sincerely want to get closer to their growing children, but the children stubbornly do not want to establish the contact!
“I try this and that – but he still keeps his door shut and doesn’t tell me anything” – complains Marianne. “I am my daughter’s best friend” – says Ally – “but she says that I am intruding into her space. How is this possible?”
It is impossible to get closer if only one party wants it. But, if you make the right steps, your chances to establish contact with your teen will greatly improve.
Advice 1: Leave the “door open”
This means that the child receives a message that they can always share with the parent absolutely everything that worries them, but at the same time they have no obligation to do this. The problem is that often, as soon as the mother “sets the course” for getting closer, she begins to “interrogate” her teenager about what is happening in their life. Naturally, the child prefers to create some distance and … be silent.
Advice 2: Get feedback from your teenager, let them know that their opinion is important.
Are you planning to renovate your kitchen? Ask your son or daughter what they would prefer to see. Are you considering what to make for dinner? Ask your child. Make sure that you do not dismiss all their suggestions. Otherwise, it may seem that you were not sincere, and this will only push them away.
Advice 3: Create common rituals.
You can visit a coffee shop with your daughter every Saturday – this would be your “girls only” time where you can chit-chat about things. You can listen to music with your son or watch a movie on weekends – on weekdays you can discuss the films that are being released and what sounds interesting to both of you. You can cook together. There are many options – you can choose whatever suits you both best.
Advice 4: Tell them about yourself when you were their age.
Make sure it doesn’t come across as if you are lecturing them: “When I was your age, I didn’t allow myself to speak to my parents like that, and I always kept my room clean and had good grades.” No, this is not what we are suggesting. You should talk about the mistakes you’ve made, how your friend betrayed you, and about how painful it was when it happened. You should talk about your fears and anxieties. And about your first achievements. And about how difficult it was to build communication with your parents. You know, this would really bring the image of a Parent down to earth from a pedestal. It will help your child to get closer to you since it is hard to be close to someone who is so far above you…
Advice 5: Ask your child about their feelings and emotions. Always.
Has something unpleasant happened? Do not start digging for details right away. Instead, ask: “You probably were very disappointed?” If the teachers complain about the child’s behavior at school, ask the child what they think and feel about this situation.
Advice 6: If not invited – do not enter.
This is, of course, is about boundaries. Parents often view their children as a part of themselves and forget about trivial but very important things: to knock before entering their room (and wait for the response), to not demand to be told why the child is sad/angry/crying, etc., to not judge their friends, their appearance, habits, etc.
Jessica wanted very much to be close to her daughter. When she saw that Lizzy is crying, Jessica’s anxiety went through the roof. She felt the urge to learn what happened right away. But in such situations, Lizzy does not want to talk to her mom at all. Jessica is frustrated and puzzled that Lizzy does not tell her anything – she only wants to help!
Advice 7: Let the child make their own decisions.
Even if you think that you know that another solution is better, even if you are certain about it – you can tell your opinion, but unless your child is in danger, you need to let them make their own choice. It will allow them to feel that they are trusted and will create a basis for getting closer.