Do you remember your first teenage crush? I do; he was a friend of my brother’s and the infatuation lasted a couple months. Endless hours were spent in discussion in friend’s houses to a background of Bob Dylan. Finally, he asked my friend out and they married after many years! I survived my first crush and now look back with amusement. Nonetheless, I have not forgotten the angst and confusion that is part of the teenage years.
What helps a teenager get through this difficult time? A strong supportive family where the young person feels they belong, where their presence is noted and their absence felt. Although they may not say it, you are the primary influence in their lives and the importance of connecting into your teen’s world cannot be overstated. Take time for them in the morning, at mealtimes and at bedtime and enjoy family outings so they feel loved. As children get older, it is more difficult to share time as they are independent of you, yet it is as important that you do. Last week, I took my daughter out for lunch and got her some tee shirts. Now, I am familiar with what is happening in her world and she knows she is valued and loved. I have put a note in my diary for our next lunch as she is important to me. A one on one ensures she is free to express her feelings and more open to hearing mine.
So many parents, and I include myself think they have to fix things, when we just need to listen and play back the feeling. Therefore, when your daughter says ‘Guess what! Mark asked me out”! A better response would be “Really, Oh, that’s just what you were hoping for, wasn’t it?” to keep the relationship open. Better not say “Just you watch him; boys are only interested in one thing!”
If your teen experiences disappointment, ensure you do not dilute or dismiss how she’s feeling. Steve Covey says in his book the 7 Habits of Effective Families that we need to “Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood”. Ask yourself” what’s my daughter feeling right now”? An empathic response of ‘You must feel really upset’ shows you care and will hold her where she is at. Talking about your own experience may be helpful too and the disappointments you suffered at a similar age. Some adolescents today are adrift in a sea of uncertainly, with the religious influence largely eroded yet replaced by nothing, their values and morals worked through with friends rather than supportive parents. When a parent builds a solid sense of self in their teen, communicates values and morals, their teen is less likely to drink, drug take or engage in sexual activity at an early age.
In order for the Parent to do this, they need to first nurture themselves – make time to walk in the park, relax in the bath, plan an evening out, take time to reflect, order a takeout or buy yourself flowers!