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How to Understand a Teenage Daughter
Are you concerned about your relationship with your teen? You want to get close but she is pushing you away. Read on for some thoughts and tips how to improve your relationship and understand what is really going on.
When our children are babies, for the most part we can figure out their needs. Sometimes though as a baby and as a toddler we have to go through a process of guesswork in order to understand how to calm, soothe and give comfort - how to meet the need.
Meeting the need in the teenage years can certainly be a challenge for many parents. As a young teen,I was not the nicest person to be around. I think what my parents did well throughout that time was to remain attached. They didn't always get it right and flip flopping between very strict and loosey goosey was confusing. However that being said I always remember fairness and being interested in what I was interested in without condemnation really helped some of the more memorably difficult times.
As a parenting educator I am saddened when I hear parents washing their hands of their teens behaviours or stating very publicly that they don't like teens or spending time with them. For teen girls this potentially can send them off into unhealthy peer or love relationships. Remaining attached to your teen daughter may seeem like an uphill struggle but understanding her will help you both regain closeness and manage the tough times more effectively. Trying things differently rather than the same thing over and over.
All Behaviour Has meaning . How to Connect during Conflict.
Within the culture of every family we learn how to survive situations we don't like, especially conflict and begin to expect or assume we know how others will react.
Conflict can actually be a sign of strength and health in a relationship and peace does not mean the absence of conflict. Oftentimes conflict in a family is the sign of an unmet need. How often have you found yourself upset or angry because you feel ignored and unappreciated.
The Connect Parenting Program is an attachment based model for parents and caregivers of teens. Developed by Marlene Moretti Ph.D, Karla Braber, M.A and Ingrid Obsuth, Ph.D The Connect programme guides parents through 9 principles which assists with attachment and creating change in what is ocurring within the relationship.
Connect is not an everything goes programme and neither is it a behavioural module, rather it focuses on strengthening the relationship between the parent or caregiver and the teen.
Briefly, Connect teaches parents how to explore their teens behaviour by responding to what is actually happening rather than reacting to what they interpret may be happening.
For example - S comes home from school throws her books on a chair, kicks a chair on the way through, ignoring her parent. S starts talking loudly on a cell phone.
From one angle this behaviour looks rude and inconsiderate. As a parent we might feel "here we go again" helpless, overwhelmed, frustrated, hurt and deal with the situation based on that feeling. Ignoring the teen, yelling, threatening to cut off the cell, telling them we will NOT tolerate this behaviour. Whilst these feelings are genuine and the response may be justified it will most likely end up escalating the behaviour and lead to further battles down the road.
Consider the the principle that all behaviour has meaning. Rather than labelling the behaviour as rude (we are also not condoning or accepting this behaviour as acceptable), take a moment to reflect on what you are feeling and what you are observing, rather than interpreting. What else could the behaviour mean - a falling out with friends at school? Failing a test? Not being picked for the dance solo? Being overwhelmed, afraid or scared?
Learning to respond to what we are seeing, rather than what we are interpreting, will offer both you and your daughter (or son) the opportunity to discover what is actually going on. It may not happen at that moment - it may be better to leave any discussion until later - but responding and not reacting will not escalate the sitation and likely will de-escalate further conflict. Your teen will also be surprised by the fact that you are not being predicatable and that you are concerned and interested in how she is feeling and what is happening for her. True she may still push you away on one level but the other side of the coin is attachment. By responding you are keeping the connection going. She may be pushing for independence and you are helping her by focusing on the relationship and meeting/responding to the unmet needs she may not be able to verbally state or even recognize she has. When she was two this was easier - but if you think back to the times when she was two and you didn't know what she needed now is not really so very different except she is bigger and wears lipstick.
Spending Time with your Teen
Research tells us that, despite what you may see, you as a parent or primary caregiver are the most significant person in your teens life. Neurologically, emotionally and psychologically your teen is going through so many changes. It is a time in life when even the teeniest problem can seem insurmountable and who best to take it out on - yep, the person who loves you most. The two sided coin - attachment and independence. They cannot be separated.
Spending time doing fun things with your teen daughter, supporting her interests, balancing her need for alone and independent time with opportunities for her to learn about you and share in moments of closeness, however brief, will unite you and make the tough times a lot less frequent. Ask your teen to teach you stuff, let her show you her skills and talents. Remember the way she approaches something may not be the way you do it, does not make it wrong.
Some suggestions for teen attachment time: The "do" list
- Pay them compliments - be genuine
- Invite them to a movie (one they would like to see)
- Suggest coffee or treats at a favourite coffee store
- Make them something such as jewellery, a card, a scarf
- Bake together
- Create a tradfition or continue an old one and reflect on the good times you have had together
- Make a Vision Board
- Have a spa day - side by side pedicures
- wiii fit or dance games
- Watch a TV series together - let her pick
- Laugh and let her know how you feel and experience life
The try hard "not to do" list
- Make plans without consulting her
- Use sarcasm or put downs to make a point
- Dismiss her moods and behaviours
- Ignore signs of depression or ongoing problems at school
- Make threats or be inconsistent with rules
- Assume you know how she is feeling by her behaviour
- Talk negatively about her publicly or to family and friends
- Make negative comments about her friends
One day soon your teen will grow into a young woman. All the hard times will be memories and hopefully the real memories will be the times you were there for her, when you still made her lunch, tucked her up when she was crying over her first break up or fell about laughing at something silly you did together. Creating those memories today will ensure a positive future for you, your beautiful daughter and her family yet to come.