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How to Connect with Your Teenager

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I’m not a fan of reality TV, but I’ve found one show that (surprisingly) I’m addicted to. Mrs. Eastwood And Company has tickled my funny bone. Maybe it’s the fact that, all too often, I can identify with Dina (wife of movie star/director Clint Eastwood) when she’s parenting her two teenage girls. I especially enjoy watching her interactions with Morgan, her 15-year-old. Whether it’s Morgan rolling her eyes at her mother when she speaks, or telling her mother, “Stop, you’re embarrassing me,” these exchanges make me feel connected to Mrs. Eastwood; like we’re kindred spirits.

Like Dina, I miss the old days when my daughter wanted to spend time with me and “dish.” Not too long ago, she enthusiastically shared details about her schoolyard-crush-of-the-week, what book she was reading, and her dreams of what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now my 15-year-old doesn’t want to be seen with me. The other day I suggested we go to the beach together and my daughter looked at me like I had two heads and had temporarily lost my mind. And what was her response?

“No way – what if my friends are there and they see me?”

When did going somewhere in public with me become social suicide for my daughter? Like Morgan, my 15-year-old can be moody, private, and dramatic when she asserts her “almost-an-adult” status and need for independence (and money for the mall).

 

 

But how did Mommy go from hero to loser in the blink of an eye?

Okay, the blink was more like 10 years, but honestly: raising a teenager is like walking a tightrope wearing stilettos. And when I share my frustration or perplexity over teenage mood swings with my gal-pals who have “been-there-and-done-that,” I hear the same old clichéd response:

“She’ll come back to you.”

But my friends forget: it’s hard waiting for my daughter’s 21st birthday because I’m missing my “baby” today.

I do realize that this dilemma is shared world-wide with mothers of teens everywhere and that does bring me some comfort. My daughter’s need to spend more time with her friends and less time with her family is normal. Her desire to distance herself from me is just a phase and maybe a good thing because it indicates that she’s a healthy teenager stuck in the middle between childhood and becoming a young adult. But I still have to wonder…

How do I connect with my teen while she’s crossing that bridge from moody to marvelous?

Michele Borba is a leading child expert and the author of several (excellent) parent books. She wrote a great article called “Secrets to Thawing a Teen’s Cold Shoulder” in which she writes:

“Research confirms that their brains are actually wired differently so we should expect them to be a bit ‘difficult’ and a unique species.”

In the article Borba outlines four steps you can take to “thaw things out,” such as avoiding “communication blockers” like lecturing or sarcasm and learning “relationship builders” or new ways to respond. The article is definitely helpful and worth reading.

Psychologist Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., wrote a great article called “Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence: The challenge of mothering an adolescent daughter.” In it, he describes mother-daughter relationships as “extremely conflicting” and “intense.” He also asserts that conflict is “normal” and to be expected:

“Among other things, conflict can be an act of intimacy when opposing parties communicate significant feelings and thoughts about some difference between them, coming to know each other and be known more deeply than before…they learn more about each other and the different values and perspectives between them. In this way, conflict can also be a process for creating acceptance of significant differences in the relationship.

“When a mother won’t let go of her daughter and allow independence or when the woman won’t accept her daughter’s lifestyle and respect her individuality, alienation can build, estrangement can follow, and bitterness can result. The reverse of this situation can also occur to sorrowful effect where the daughter cannot relinquish her dependent hold on her mother or refuses to accept the different definition of womanhood that her mother embodies.”

In other words, both mother and daughter need to learn how to have an adult relationship, respecting each others’ independence and individualism.

Actress Bette Davis once said:

“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”

I guess that means I’m a parent and somehow I’ll survive, just like my mother did when I was a moody 15-year-old.

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About Luanne Stevenson

Published Ghost Writer; Freelance Writer
  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    The most important thing for a teen to learn is to set boundaries with peers. This boundary setting
    skill is paramount if the teen is to enter a career of any substance like a profession or even running a
    business. The internet, texting, video games and a whole new generation of electronic hardware/software
    has taken young people away from social/face-to-face connections in favor of communication by machine.

    This whole process is producing young people who have weak inter-personal skills from not dealing
    with people directly. Young people no longer read books like their parents. And so, vocabulary and
    sentence structure is weaker. Some young people don’t have the word skills to even articulate what’s occurring in their lives.

    Part of the solution is to get young people more involved with volunteering in the
    community so that they have a stronger connection to real people instead of just their friends.
    School administrators at every level have to begin assigning high quality literature at every level. Parents need to require more involvement of their children in maintaining the household.