We all desperately want connection. We don’t just want any connection though; we want a good connection. When we’re on target in our relationship with our kids, it feels amazing. They are listening to us and we’re enjoying watching them thrive. They’re slowly stepping out into more and more independence. However, this process is done respectfully. How do we get more of this in our relationship with our teenagers?
One of the biggest things for the teens I see in my therapy practice is acknowledgement. They feel like a million bucks when a parent points out something that was done well. It means even more if there’s no constructive criticism attached.
Your teen has done something worthy of a compliment in the past week. Even if he or she is behaving horribly, something was done well. Perhaps your adolescent is a really loyal friend. Maybe your teenager showed compassion to a sibling. Did your teen show self-restraint when that is usually difficult for him or her? Find something to celebrate.
Also, go big on the big moments. It’s a nice thing to make a fuss over really big steps in your child’s life. This doesn’t mean throwing some huge party because your teenager has finished the 10th grade. It does means making a big deal when he or she finishes high school though. Even if your teen finishes in a non-traditional way such as passing the GED, this is a milestone.
Many of the young men and women who come to therapy in my office will tell their parents something isn’t anything to fuss over. Then they turn around and tell me they wish their parents had been present to celebrate it with them. I’ve heard this from seemingly small events like your child’s first varsity game and your child’s best report card, to the really big things like eighth grade promotion, prom and college admission.
Mom and Dad, your teen wants to know you’re watching. They want to know you’re proud. Sometimes they want you to tell them without including what they also can improve on. Every now and again, “Wow! That was awesome!” is all you need to say.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT