When your child enters adolescence, you might think that they’ve become a different person. Suddenly, they are more easily embarrassed; they don’t want to be seen with you when with friends; and they are pulling away emotionally. All of this is actually normal for teens to do and shouldn’t cause concern or worry. During adolescence, teens are looking for their sense of autonomy and independence. And to do this, they must naturally pull away from their parents and their family as a whole.
At the same time, teens are still looking up to their parents and searching for the ways they are becoming an adult themselves. Although they are pulling away, they still need their parents emotionally and psychologically – albeit in different ways than they did in their childhood.
For this reason, it’s important that parents continue to tend to their teen’s needs even when their teen is pulling away. It’s important that a caregiver hang in there through the fighting and rebelliousness and hold their position as parent. And it’s important that parents remain emotionally available for teens. Although it might appear that teens don’t want to talk about anything, they will come to their parents from time to time.
Sadly, when parents get busy or when there are other stressors bearing on the family, such as a family member who is sick or financial worries, the relationships in the family can take the back seat. And when this happens, the parent-teen relationship can suffer. When teens do turn to their parents and if their parents are unavailable or emotionally absent, a teen may feel lost, confused, abandoned, or even rejected.
Therefore, the following list is what to look for in the parent-teen relationship that might warrant some attention. When the following experiences exist for a teen or a parent, it may be useful to call for the assistance of a mental health professional:
- Feeling disconnected or misunderstood by others
- Feeling distant from others in the family
- Feeling emotionally distant or numb
- Wanting to avoid people who used to be important to you
- Drinking alcohol more often or taking drugs
- Being constantly on edge or jumpy
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Having problems eating or sleeping
- Feeling hopeless
- Forgetting things often
- Poor grades in school
- Spending time with an unhealthy or negative crowd of people
- Criticizing oneself or others too much
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you normally enjoy
- Having difficulty living your usual life or just getting through the day
- Acting violently or being physically aggressive
If you notice there is a stressful circumstance or a difficult experience that is getting in the way of your parent-teen relationship, one of the steps to take is to communicate. Although it’s not easy to bring up concerns in a relationship, it is often necessary, especially if the problem is going to have an emotional or psychological effect on your teen.
If it is too uncomfortable to bring up a relationship concern with a teen, you can always call upon a professional. Therapists and psychologists, for example, often know how to say what needs to be said in a gentle and safe way. Sometimes, family therapy is necessary for the psychological health of the family, parents, and adolescent.