Creative Child

Building Great Relationships in Adolescence

(Strong Attachment Series Part Three)
by Rebecca Eanes

We’ve come to regard it as normal when teenagers push away their parents. We view it as a breaking away to become an independent adult, and although it often causes much strife when adolescents are more influenced by peers than by parents (rebellion, poor decisions, impulsivity), we rarely question the motivation for teens doing so. The fact that it is “normal” for teens to push away their parents is a sign of the breakdown in the parent-child relationship and tips us off that something in the way we are parenting is not working to keep our children close.

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Secure attachment is key in a healthy parent-teen relationship. The need for closeness with a parent does not disintegrate when the bridge to adolescence is crossed. We must remain their compass point, and this is true for both boys and girls. The fear of “helicopter parenting,” “over involvement,” and “raising mama’s boys” may cause parents to back off too much in these important years. A secure attachment does not mean “over parenting” but rather involves being a resting place where your child can safely express thoughts and emotions and receive empathy and support, and where he or she can feel a sense of belonging, acceptance, and unconditional love.

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Here are some tips for building and maintaining a strong attachment to your adolescent:

 

  • Trust may be even more important in the teen years than it was in middle childhood. As Dr. Laura Markham puts it, “Trust does not mean blindly believing whatever your teenager tells you. Trust means not giving up on your child no matter what he or she does.” It means believing in your child’s goodness and being a light reflector. Continue building trust and showing trust; it may be the ticket to a healthy parent-adult child relationship.
  • Keep an open line of communication. Now it’s time to reap the benefits from early middle childhood when you sowed seeds of listening. Hopefully your teen feels comfortable talking to you, but if not, you can begin building a trusting relationship now that will lead to open, respectful communication.
  • Respect her opinions and don’t downplay her concerns. What may seem like nothing to you could feel like a big deal to her, and that should be respected.
  • Prioritize the relationship. It’s hard to stay connected if you don’t spend much time together, obviously. It’s important to remember that, even though they look grown and may only be a few months away from living on their own, they still need you to be their compass point.
  • Research the teen brain and learn about the wonders of it! It’ll help you understand your teen’s attitudes and behaviors.
  • Welcome their friends to your home. If you want to keep your teen close, make your house the best hangout.
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