Childhood is full of wounds. Not just the cuts, scrapes, and bruises of explorative play; kids’ feelings are routinely hurt, whether from rejection by others,…
Loneliness seems to come out of the blue despite the number of teen friends or social interaction in their life. But why so much loneliness – where does this come from? There is a natural distancing from adults that is both welcome and daunting in the teen years. In one breath the teen acts like a child and longs to be cared for by a parent, only in the next moment to crave their independence and freedom. The dilemma for the teen is they are neither child nor adult – they are in the ‘in between place’. They are somewhere on the bridge crossing the divide between childhood into adulthood. I feel for them, I remember being there, it often felt agonizing. The anthem for teenage years should be – “Everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same” (compliments of the band Keane), but of course, the irony is that it is actually the teen that is changing the most of all.
While parents hold onto the idea maturity that is around the corner, the process of getting there with a teen can sometimes feel messy, emotional, and unpredictable. One minute a teen can seem agreeable but easily switch to disagreeing with parental suggestions.
We need to find ways to be less direct, to listen more, validate feelings and thoughts where we can, give them room to discover who they are, and keep our relationship strong. Finding ways to be close to a teen without being pushy is imperative as is talking to them without being full of commands. Relationships are for life and when our teens change, we need to change too, and to find new ways to hold onto what is most important to us. Dr. Deborah MacNamara is the Director of Kid's Best Bet, a family counselling centre, she is on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute, and is the author of Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one), which has been translated into 7 languages.
What teens can’t say and parents need to know is that our job is not done yet - but we need to think about how we care for them a little differently.