Think back for just a moment to your teen years. Back when life was all about being with friends & fitting in. When it seemed like your parents had the most unreasonable rules and everyone else’s parents were cooler than yours. Think about how your days were filled with
maybe a job
possibly a hobby
and your main goal was to spend ALL the in-between time with friends. (At least the people we thought were our friends.) Oof! We learned a lot of hard lessons during those teen years, didn’t we?
When I think back to my teen years, there was one thing my friends and I had in common. No one…. not one single person was trying to spend time with their parents.
So while it can often feel like my child has become a stranger, and I’m not gonna lie, it definitely hurts my mama heart 💔, I’ve also learned that it’s a very normal part of the developmental process. When our children hit their teen years, they begin to experience a surge of hormones, leading to rapid brain development, and an ever-increasing desire for independence. As a result, they often seek more time alone to explore their individuality and establish their identity.
Friends, this pulling away is supposed to happen.
Teen isolation manifests in a ton of different ways. Sometimes we notice that they begin to withdraw from family activities. We also see it in the way they begin to spend more time alone in their room, or the way they become experts in avoiding conversations with us. I know the earbud trick, boy; you aren’t fooling anyone! This behavior leaves us feeling confused but more often worried about our child’s well-being.
When a teenager begins to isolate themselves from us, it almost always creates a strain on the parent-teen relationship. I mean, you’d have to be a robot not to ache for the days when they used to reach up and grab your hand when you walked beside them, or shower you with random hugs and I love yous throughout the day. Of course, we feel rejected, hurt, and even blame ourselves sometimes.
The most important thing for your relationship with your teen is for you to remember that this is not a reflection of your parenting skills or a reflection of how they feel about you but rather a normal developmental stage.
Having said that, I think it’s important to present the flip side, which is that prolonged isolation can put our teens and us at risk of increased feelings of loneliness, depression, or anxiety. That’s why, it’s essential to make sure that we are addressing any issues proactively and trying to find creative ways to reconnect. Do not give up on searching for connections.
Here are 4 Strategies to Reconnect with Your Teen
1. Create a Safe and Non-Judgmental Space
Please know that what I’m about to say next, I say with nothing but love in my heart for every parent out there (including myself). Sometimes the best thing we can do is to just “zip it.” 🤐
In fact, I am acutely aware of how oversharing my opinions tends to create the biggest barriers in my own relationship with my teen and adult children. Unless we are intentional about the way we convey our concerns, they often come across as judgment.
Our teens don’t always feel comfortable expressing themselves because of fear of judgment or punishment. It might help if we could try to adopt an open and empathetic approach when they do reach out, encouraging honest conversations. This can only happen, though, if we are able to work on having some healthy detachment around the choices our child is making. Remember…Healing starts with you.
2. Find Common Ground and Shared Activities
Identify interests or activities that both you and your teen enjoy. This could be anything from watching a favorite TV show together, going for walks, or playing a sport. Engaging in shared activities helps build a sense of connection and fosters open communication. To be clear, I’m not talking about daily time together. Start small and try something once a week or once every other week. Let it grow organically. 🪴
3. Respect Their Independence
While it’s important to maintain boundaries and rules, respect your teen’s growing need for independence. Take a deep breath and then give them space to make decisions (they are doing it anyway) and learn from their experiences.
4. Actively Listen and Validate Their Feelings
Show genuine interest in your teen’s thoughts and feelings. Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, summarizing what they’ve said, and asking clarifying questions. Validate their emotions, even if you may not fully understand or agree with them.
Teen isolation can be perplexing and challenging. By taking time to understand the underlying issues and implement effective strategies, we can begin to rebuild the parent-teen relationship and support our teenager’s journey toward independence. Remember, patience, empathy, and open communication are key to bridging the gap and fostering a stronger connection.