When Your Teenager Avoids You
Your child is acting out. Rather than beating yourself up and trying to figure out what you’ve done wrong, step back and take a fresh look at the situation. As we discussed in a previous post, there are several factors that contribute to your teenage child’s emotional well-being. There are biological factors, psychological factors, and social factors at play, as well. With all of that going on, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not the source of the stress — even if, in an emotional outburst, your child directly accuses you of being the problem. Chances are, your child is suffering from self-esteem issues. There’s good news, however — as a parent, you have a good deal of influence, and you can be part of the solution.
Teenagers who suffer from a lack of self-esteem often harbor overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, and these feelings can hang around for long periods of time. After a while, adolescents can train themselves to feel unworthy of love, attention, and support. This cloud of depression can damage a teenager’s perception of the relationship that they’ve built with their parents. This is evident when your child accuses you of being a bad parent or insists that you don’t care about them. While these accusations can hurt, they can actually present an opportunity to reach out to your child, because they are trying to tell you that they feel distant. Of course, coming right out and saying that to you would make them feel vulnerable, so it’s less scary to just say they don’t like you.
Improve Communication with Your Teen
If you feel that your child is experiencing teen developmental issues, the first thing to do is to sit down with them and talk things through. Talk with them about where they think these issues may be coming from. While they may not be able to tell you outright, try to link what they say to any events that may have caused them distress in the past few months. Keep the conversation calm and strictly confidential. Whatever you do, don’t speak to your child in a way that sounds condescending or that you’re blaming them for their actions.
It may be necessary to bring in a professional counselor or a doctor. If medication is necessary, your doctor will have to make his prescription based on the symptoms as described by the patient and, perhaps, family members. Medications can make a huge difference for those with a chemical imbalance, but some research will be required to identify the medication that best fits the symptoms.
Relationships, both in and out of the family, are of particular importance for teenagers, and can often contribute the most motivating factors for change (Diamond et al., 2003). Family relationships are an excellent indicator of how your teen’s ability to function — and will continue to function — in relationships both in and out of the home. Researchers have consistently found that the style of relationship (referred to as “attachment”) that a child has with his or her parents will be present in current and future close relationships—that is, unless a significant intervention (natural or therapeutic) occurs.
It’s natural to feel confused and powerless when your child begins to act out. Remember, however that you have access to plenty of helpful information, and that your child is actually trying to tell you what’s wrong, they just don’t know how to. If, however, you feel that you’re in over your head, it’s important to remember that there are many effective interventions for teenagers and families in precisely the same situation. You may have to hunt around a bit to find the program that’s right for you, but there’s definitely one out there.