Age 12 was pretty rocky in this household. My son attempted to establish his own identity- an identity separate from the family- and consequently turned our family on it’s ear. It was particularly difficult for me because Nick and I were extremely close when he was younger. His “tween” behavior was certainly not anything that reflected the family values that he was raised with. Now in his teens, things seem to have turned around.
A lot of parents go through similar crisis. Everyone talks about the crisis and no one talks about the healing. I want to talk about the healing. We didn’t heal overnight, and sometimes I still feel like we’re on shaky ground; but we’ve made tremendous progress.
I know how hard it can be when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope as a parent. Not all of these suggestions will work for every parent and teen. But maybe some will. Or maybe one will. I remember being so desperate that I just needed one ray of hope. Or maybe this list will spark a completely different- yet absolutely appropriate- idea that will help your family. In any event, I hope that my sharing will be helpful.
Here are some things that helped my son and I to re-establish the parent-teen bond after it had been broken:
Listen. I know some teens don’t talk at all, but mine talks all the time! I have to admit to sometimes tuning him out. Remember that commercial that went something like, “Who do Chandler and Ross have lunch with?” And then it asked “Who does your kid have lunch with?” That’s the kind of listening our tweens and teens want. Skip the “deep” psycho-stuff and tune in to your teen’s “So then he said… no wait… Marissa was next to me and…”
Play. Just play. That’s what teens like to do. Video games, cards, sports, it doesn’t matter. They don’t even care if you’re a lousy player. As a matter of fact, I think teens like being in the position of teaching (helping?) their parents. Have some fun together, have some laughs. Bond.
Shop. Again, get off the deep psycho-stuff and just hang out. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of money. Go to the mall and window shop. You’ll get a good idea of what your teen likes. If you have money, set a reasonable limit for your teen and search for bargains.
Bake. In all the chaos of having your house turned upside down, it’s easy to forget about the simple things in life. The smell of brownies baking and the pleasure of a homemade dessert can have a healing effect. You may even want to encourage your teen bake a treat for the family on his or her own- some teens really appreciate taking a leadership role in the family. (Of course, don’t do this if your son or daughter hates working in the kitchen and considers it a violation of child labor laws.)
Take an interest everyday. Even if your teen is being absolutely unreasonable, take an interest in the kindest fashion. “Yes, darling, I think it would be great if you had a Maserati and an indoor basketball court.” Skip the part about being middle-income with large bills and tenuous job security. However, you’ll need to kindly redirect on issues like homework, drugs, and sex; but as long as you take an interest everyday, you’ll know that your teen is having issues with these things.
Those are some of the things I learned on the road to recovery with my teen. Your kid might be totally different, but I hope not. My heart goes out to every family being torn apart by an out-of-control child. I truly hope that you find your peace and your healing.
If you didn’t find this helpful, please, please look for something else. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your kid.