Teenagers are very sensitive to the energy of their parents. They pick up their vibes easily. So, when they sense anxiety or a lack of trust from their parents as opposed to a nurturing or positive energy, they start shielding themselves from this negative energy. To avoid it they will distance themselves from it and their parents. In some cases, they may turn to friends, drugs, and alcohol to feel accepted and validated.
Ask yourself then what is the energy with which you are approaching your teenagers. When you enter your teen’s room and ask, “What did you do today?” are you there because you genuinely want to connect with them or are you there because you are worried about the choices they may have made that day. Teenagers will immediately pick up on the authenticity of your interest in their lives versus the lack of trust you have in them.
Importance of engagement
A parent has to be extremely mindful of one’s own emotions and how they influence the behavior of their teenagers. We all carry an emotional blueprint of the way relationships work in our lives. This pattern is developed in our childhood based on our own interactions with our parents. Those people who have never received authentic engagement and nurturing from their parents will always find it harder to trust and believe in their children’s choices. They will have to become self-aware and conscious about operating from a place of trust and involvement.
Be their champion
As a parent, one also has to think about how safe one feels about being vulnerable. Without being emotionally vulnerable it is very hard to connect with teenagers in an authentic way. Vulnerability opens you to the possibility of being hurt by your kids and requires you to go beyond the pain to understand your child’s struggle. There may be times when your kids use you as a punching bag. They are doing this not because they hate you, but because it is their safest space. When you respond to these outbursts, judge the behavior and not the child’s character. Be the reassuring container that allows the child to struggle inside it without it cracking up.
Make them responsible
Teenagers learn from responsibility. Entitlement cripples them. Your teenagers will learn from being given real responsibility that comes with real consequences. For example, give them money to manage certain household purchases. If they forget to do it or blow up the money somewhere else, they should feel the pain of what it means to live without those necessities.
Often we as parents avoid failure in ourselves and in our kids. Teens learn the most from failure if they are taught to embrace and learn from it. They should not be made to feel ashamed for failing.
Even while you operate from a place of trust, there will be moments when you have to have difficult conversations with your teenagers. These conversations should be the ones where you help your teens invoke critical thinking. Think before you speak. Speak to your teens the way you would like to be spoken to. Think about whether your words are compassionate and inspiring. And be extremely aware of choosing a time for a conversation when teens are more amenable to listening. This could be when they are free, when you are driving together or when you are doing some activity together.
Together, all these strategies of mindful parenting will help your relationship with your teen blossom.
About Ashika Mehta
Ashika has done intensive post-trauma work with those affected by the 26/11 terror attacks at the Breach Candy Hospital and facilitates therapy groups for those with chronic illness.
Ashika is passionate about working towards the prevention of the sex trafficking of at-risk women and children. As a Board Member of Apne Aap Women’s Collective, Ashika helps rehabilitate women in prostitution and creates educational and job opportunities for the children of sex workers.