A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt)
– Desiree Panlilio
Franklin D. Roosevelt shared this thought as a reminder that life and relationships come with many ups and downs, but those bumps are what make us compassionate, resilient, and dynamic people. As a parent of a teen, we can all agree that the water is not smooth. At some point our teen rejects us and as a parent we are devastated. Of course we should be. The idea of our teen, this individual we love unconditionally, rejecting us is demoralizing and often brings up our own insecurities and past where we may have been rejected before. All of this emotion is on us as the parent. Not the message any parent wants to read. How we handle our teens’ rejection and distance is up to us.
This moment of rejection is our teen letting us know that they want more independence from us, to gain their own autonomy and to not have us around as much. As a parent, what can you do to minimize the hurt feelings that you are having? Sharing that this push-back and our teen stating, “No, you don’t have to come inside with me” or not wanting a hug when you drop them off is normal does not make you feel better. However, I do have a few suggestions. Remember you are your teen’s biggest role model even when you are not present or they are pushing you away as they discover who they are independent of you.
Don’t take away your love and affection just because your teen has taken theirs away. Stay steady. Keep making yourself available. Let your teen know you care. Set limits if your teen is being disrespectful but do it with honesty. “I was really hurt when you stopped me from hugging you before the big game last night, and then to tell me to go away and dismiss me, made me angry and hurt.” This creates the space for a conversation and the opportunity to find other ways to connect in public. Perhaps it is a text or a special signal. Allowing yourself to share your feelings with your teenager allows them to learn that the “mean” behavior was not okay and why it was not okay.
I will share some insider information. The secret wish of every teenager is that we give them our attention. Whether they admit it or not, our teenagers crave our attention. So no matter how many times they make us feel rejected, hurt, and frustrated, we need to keep making time when they come to us to talk about something. I find my teenagers are much more likely to talk to me when we have our date night. A time when we go out to eat, with no phones, and laugh. These are the moments that big questions, or big asks come up and it is the perfect opportunity to discuss the question or ask. No interruptions, just us. For other parents it may be when you are watching a movie, whenever our teen comes to talk, hit pause or turn off the movie altogether, refocus and make the time to engage in the conversation that your teen is initiating. The rewards are priceless.