When your child is growing up, they enjoy being around you and it’s a great feeling. They don’t want to be away from you, they listen to what you say, they think you are the greatest.
As your child becomes a teen the relationship changes. You are not as important as you were because their friends are center stage. This change in your relationship is part of a normal developmental process, called individuation, that your teen needs to experience and go through. You are still the parent, but not the first person they go to when they have a problem.
Most parents are able to allow this shift to take place. They may not like it, but they know that it’s better to work with the shift than against it. Other parents have a very difficult time with this shift, which can cause both teen and parent to have a hard time getting along. With this type of parent, more arguing may happen which can cause the teen to withdraw even more, and move closer to their friends. Having this approach may not enhance the parent-teen relationship, but hinder it.
What can parents do? Here are some suggestions:
- Understand that your teen is not doing this on purpose, but that it is a part of his/her developmental stage of identity. We all went through this phase.
- Invite their friends over, so you can get to know them. This helps break down preconceived notions that your teen’s friends are “not good for them.” They may not be but a different approach can be more attainable.
- Talk with your teen about friendship, what it means, and listen to what they say. Ask if you can give your opinion of them.
- Negotiate with your teen on what you are expecting from her/him. Tell her/him what is acceptable of friends and what you are not comfortable with, and why. When teens are given actual reasons, they will think about what is said.
- Have some faith in your teen that he/she can pick friends that are a good influence. It may take him/her awhile to see any flaws and find out if the friend isn’t as good as he/she thought, but that will help your teen to learn and make wiser decisions.
You and your teen can still be connected, you are still his/her parent. Respect the shift that is happening with your teen and things can go smoothly for both of you.
© Copyright 2010 by Kelly Sanders, MFT, therapist in Rancho Cucamonga, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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