Teenagers seem to live in their own little world. They speak their own language, experience their own realities, and at times it can feel like they’re a million miles away. Parenting a teenager is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not the kind of task you can set on the back burner and hope for the best. Parental involvement in a teen’s life is the single best indication of their continued health and success as a well-adjusted adult, and can prevent them from making life-altering poor choices during these formative years.
Many parents find that suddenly, imperceptibly, their teen has emotionally distanced themselves. Then when they attempt to close the gap and communicate with their teen – things gets lost in translation. Their teen will lash out angrily at a simple question, or burst into tears when their parents correct them. They may misinterpret your tone or attitude. They may seem to be happy one minute and depressed the next. It’s not uncommon for parents to think they have done something seriously wrong, or that they should back off and give the teen their space. The good news is that there are was to navigate that illogical and confusing teen brain. Here are the best ways to deal with the elusive teen brain:
Three Ways to Navigate Teen Brains
- Listen for their emotions. Teen emotions are strong and often unpredictable – especially to themselves! They don’t quite know how to deal with their feelings, and they may not have the words to express them. Teens often say “I’m fine.” or “It’s nothing!” but their tone or facial expressions say otherwise. They are usually hoping someone will notice. Look for their emotions daily to practice the habit. When it seems like something is wrong, ask about it earnestly and communicate that you are there to listen and help if needed. Even if they don’t take you up on it the first time, they will eventually.
- Talk to them about unimportant things. Their thoughts about the weather, the movie you watched last night, the song you just heard on the radio… those conversations are empty and pointless, right? Wrong. Parents often make the mistake of assuming they know their child because they raised them. Unfortunately teens aren’t as logical as that. They are changing and developing rapidly – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can help to almost treat your teen as though you would a stranger and respectfully try to get to know them. As for their opinion about everyday things or topics from your own life. Creating healthy conversation and getting to know your teen will help you better navigate their changing, confusing brain.
- Love unconditionally, but on their terms. Some kids may feel you don’t love them, even when you clearly do – you say it every day!!! That may not be an effective way of communicating your love for them. It can be a game-changer to discover your child’s “love language” and then practice using it. Maybe they need a hug, or a clear verbal recognition of something they did that was great. By acknowledging their love language you are respecting their individuality and communicating love. Suddenly your message and theirs can both be understood.
If you further struggle to relate to your teen, or determine that there are serious problems with which you need qualified, professional help, there are options out there. Classes, counseling, even residential treatment can make a difference for your troubled teen. The teen brain may seem to be an enigma, but don’t give up hope – you can get through!