Teens are the canary in the coal mine for what’s going on in a family. They’re full-on emotion and intuition. They don’t censor themselves, so they can be great teachers to all of us. Be curious about what they’re saying, even if it comes across in a harsh or dramatic way.
For instance, if your daughter says, “You never let me go anywhere. You don’t trust me,” ask yourself, “What’s true about this statement? Why don’t I trust her? Is it her friends? Did she lie to me?” Then figure out how to rebuild the trust. Her feelings usually point to something that needs attention.
You picked up your teen’s phone and saw some explicit sexting messages between, say, your son and his new girlfriend. What to do? Teen therapists Lorraine and Richard Platt offer these tips:
Don’t panic. It’s not an emergency. Before you do or say anything about your teenager sexting, make sure you have a game plan. Talk to your partner if you have one to think through what you want to say, and make sure you’re not reactive or fearful when you go to your son.
To help your teen plan for the future (gulp), maybe skip the lectures and pep talks. This works way better.
Do any of these parent-to-teen comments ring a bell?
• “Have you done your homework yet?”
• “You have to do better if you want to go to college.”
• “You just have to try harder—do you know how much your tutor is costing us?”
• “If you don’t get moving, you can forget about getting into a great school.”
• “What do you want to be? You can be anything! You just have to go for it!”
I think I see a few hands going up…oops, starting with mine.
Moms: These 5 spot-on ways to connect with your son will keep him close (and make both of you happier)
The biggest complaint Richard Platt hears from boys: “My mom doesn’t understand me.”
What he hears from moms: “I can’t control him! I can’t talk to him! What do I do with him?”
(Full disclosure as a mom: I didn’t transcribe the above from my own real-life teen-son experience. Though I could have!)
The disconnect between mothers and their adolescent sons is rooted in a lot of common misconceptions parents have, says Platt, a family therapist and parenting coach in Mill Valley, CA, who specializes in boys ages 13 to 20. They’re not so much trying to pull away and separate from us as they are trying to figure out who they are as their own person.
“What we see as ‘teenage rebellion’ is actually abnormal,” Platt told me. “We call it normal because there’s so much of it in our culture. Kids rebel because they’re pissed. They’re desperate for their parents to understand them rather than just react to their behaviors.”
So what should we know about our tween and teen sons? Platt has some ideas about mother-son communication that really work:
I work with a lot of smart, creative, and sensitive girls, and many of them are introverts. In terms of academic achievement, this is a great asset. Introverts are often studious, focused and mature for their age. Because they’re deep, reflective, and good listeners, they take in the world. While everyone else is talking, they’re absorbing, analyzing and making sense of everything.However, in high school, being an introvert can be socially challenging. We live an extroverted world that promotes constant contact, with everyone being in touch through social media. This is overwhelming to an introvert who recharges by spending time alone. How does any of this pertain to you and your teen daughter?
Some of the Mom’s I work with are worried about their introverted daughters. “Will she make friends?” “Will she stand up for herself?” “Will she be okay?” or “Why won’t she talk to me?” (though all the Moms ask me this question!). Parents believe if they push their daughter to be involved in group activities, they will get more comfortable. This often backfires and makes them withdraw because they don’t feel accepted. Being an introvert is like being born with red hair – it’s in your DNA. Recent brain research confirms this.
There’s a great book called The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World that sings the praises of your unique daughter and how she will shine when she feels understood. It also explains how and why introverts are different and, of course, what’s so great about them that most extroverts often miss. No need to worry about her future, just focus on the useful ways to support her genius.
These tips can get you started:
Blended families are common these days since the divorce rate in the U.S. is 50%. Many couples who get divorced already have children and then remarry. This creates a situation where teens are moving between two households, often with new siblings, where the rules in each home are different. This causes anxiety and confusion for teens and their parents, so here are some helpful guidelines to keep things easy during and after a divorce.
1. Be Clear and Consistent. If things are similar between households and they know what to expect, it can reduce your child’s anxiety tremendously. Change causes stress, so try to keep routines the same. Consistency creates predictability which allows them to feel more secure so they can focus on school and other priorities. Pick your battles and come to an agreement with your former spouse about what’s most important for your child’s well being since you won’t agree on everything.
Mark interviews Richard Platt about Teen Issues, Counseling and Mentoring. Richard talks about how he works with teens and addresses their issues, helping mentor teens to overcome life’s challenges.