Understanding Your Teenager, Part 2: Helping Them Understand You
Has understanding your teenager ever felt like one big mystery? A puzzle that can never, ever be solved? Let me let you in on a little secret: the feeling is mutual. They’re just as baffled by you as you are to them!
If you’ve read Part 1 in this series, hopefully some of that mystery is being solved. But your work isn’t done, not completely. Now that you’ve learned how to understand what’s going on with your teenager and stopped dealing with them, they need to start understanding you.
Because you’ve given up a good chunk of your time raising a child, it can often feel like you’re not a person anymore, you’re just a Parent, with a capital P. A category, a robot, or a servant. But now that your teenager is learning to be themselves, and live their own lives, you can let down your guard a little bit. You can finally drop the capital P.
If you’ve masked the fact that you go out of your way for your kids, that’s going to create a very stressful list of expectations. They see you as someone who does things, even if you really don’t want to do them. But you have to show them that you’re more than that.
It’s time for you to actively invite them into your reality.
You need to show your teenager that you have an identity outside of being a parent. You need to take time out for yourself, but include them in it. Let them see you doing something that doesn’t revolve around them. Including them in something you love is a way for them to step into your reality and who you are as a person, instead of just a parent.
One of the ways you can do this is teaching them how to do some of the “adult” things you’ve always done for them, like laundry.
A lot of parents will spring these responsibilities on their kids when they’ve reached a certain age, and when their kids express outrage at having to do this for themselves, the parents conclude that they’re just lazy and grateful. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you’re springing responsibilities on your kids and act surprised when they rebel against them, you have to ask yourself, ‘What have I been teaching them?’
The answer? You’ve never taught them to expect anything else! If your children have an expectation that Mom or Dad will always clean up after them, cook the meals, do the dishes, buy stuff for them, and do the laundry, violating that expectation with no warning or explanation is going to leave them confused and irritated.
If you’re inviting our children into your reality, helping them understand you’re more than just a parent, and that you’d rather spend time on things other than their care, you can make their transition into adult life much, much easier. You can say:
“Hey, I’ve done your laundry all these years, and never complained, because I love you, and I wanted to take care of you, because you couldn’t do it for yourself. But you’re reaching an age where you can do things for yourself, and I can’t keep taking responsibility for these things in your life. I have other things I want to do with my time other than take care of you.”
This is the way to make your teenager understand what life is like for you as an adult and parent. You need to bring them in slowly, introducing them to the things they can understand. As they learn more about what you have to deal every day, they will become much more sympathetic and sensitive to the hard work you’ve put into being a good parent. Your relationship will deepen and become much more satisfying. You’ll be partners, friends, and comrades. Dealing with life as it happens, without feeling overburdened, or at odds with each other.
Need to talk to someone about your teen? Take a moment to speak with me personally on a 100% FREE Personal Discovery Session. I’ve spent over 20 years mentoring parents and teens, so take this opportunity to join me today!
Debra Beck is a devoted mother, sought-after presenter, author, and has spent over 20 years working with teens and their parents. She’s helped thousands of teen girls develop their self-esteem through her blog, one-on-one mentoring sessions, and mother-daughter retreats.
Her award-winning book My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girl’s Guide to Loving Herself was revised and updated for re-release in September 2011 with Beaufort Books.