Despite your best efforts, it might not be as easy to connect with your teenage son as it once was. At times, the loving, easy-going boy you once knew might appear sullen, withdrawn or even combative. Knowing that this is a normal part of the separation-individuation process of adolescence won't necessarily make you feel better, but remember that teens need to assert their independence and start finding their own identities by pulling away from their parents. By not taking it personally and maintaining an involved, caring attitude, you can stay connected with your teenage son and help him navigate his way through this developmental phase.
Respect your son's efforts to separate from the family nest. It's not always an easy undertaking, but it's important that he feels that you won't reject him if he tries to assert himself. Parents are their teens' emotional compass, according to psychologist and parenting expert Laura Markham in an article for her website, Aha! Parenting. In order for him to find his own identity, he needs to feel your support and love.
Display interest in his interests, activities and friends. If he's involved with an extracurricular sports team, attend his matches or games. If he plays an instrument in the school band or is involved in the local theater group, go to his concerts or shows. And if you want him to hang around your house, it's also a good idea to get to know his friends.
Avoid smothering him, no matter how much you might want to pull him back to the nest. By clinging to him, your might accomplish the opposite of what you really want and push him further way. Parenting a teen son is a delicate balance between staying close and giving space. His actions and attitudes will let you know which of the two he needs at the moment.
Listen when he wants to talk but don't pressure him to communicate. According to Markham, the most important factor in communicating with a teenager is maintaining an attitude of emotional availability. At times, it might seem like talking is the last thing he wants to do. But if he reaches out, it's crucial to make his needs a priority. If he wants to talk with you, be prepared to drop whatever you're doing, even if you feel overwhelmed by other responsibilities.
Maintain an attitude of acceptance and support. He'll inevitably do things you don't approve of or agree with, but try to keep an open mind. Let your son tell you who he is, rather than you telling him who he should be. Parents should respond to teenage sons with interest and acceptance rather than dismay to help keep the lines of communication open, according to psychologist Terri Apter in an interview with the British magazine, "Psychologies."
Tips & Warnings
- You should always intervene if your son engages in life-threatening or dangerous activities. There's a difference between accepting his attempts to separate and condoning irresponsible behavior. If you have serious concerns about his behavior, consult a qualified mental health professional for guidance.
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