Getting To Know Your Teen: Therapy for Teens in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Ocean City, Santa Fe:
One day, you reflect on your relationship with your teenager and realize—you feel very far from them. Sure, you see them everyday, you’re sharing meals, talking about the logistics of the week, sleeping in the same house, but do you really know them? What are some good ways of getting to know your teen? Parenting ideas from teen therapy therapists.
Sometimes, caregivers and teens can get stuck in a loop where the parent only sees their child as a child and the child can only see their parent as a parent. So, when you’re with your teen you take on the parent role—you are the responsible one, the one who takes care of things, you guide. And in turn, the child takes on the role of child, so everything you say to them is filtered through this lens. These roles make sense when kids are young; they need your guidance to keep them safe, fed, and healthy. Teens, however, are coming to understand themselves for who they are. They are discovering what they like, dislike, their preferences, and viewpoints. Supporting their exploration is important and while many caregivers know this in theory, it can be difficult to suddenly switch roles when you’ve always been the one to make decisions for them. There can be more hurdles in getting to know your teen than you expected.
Ways To Begin Getting To Know Your Teen (Therapy for Teens in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe)
So how do you connect with a teen who you feel distant from? Start by noticing their preferences. Begin to notice all of the ways that they are choosing who they are based on what they like, dislike, and their viewpoints on various topics. Is there a favorite show they always have on? Music they are listening to? Magazines or online publications they enjoy reading? When paying attention to the little things that they like, keep an open mind. Try to put aside any predisposed ideas you have about those things and what you know about your teen. Keep an open mind by imagining you are encountering this person for the first time and have no relations to them. What are they like? Who are they showing you they are?
Questions you might ask to start the conversation with curiosity could be:
What do you like about xyz?
Who is your favorite character on (a show they watch)? What makes them your favorite?
How did you get into (a musician they like)?
I notice you laugh a lot when you read…what makes it funny?
Make a point to ask questions like these as earnestly as you can. Cues like looking directly at your teen with a neutral face or reassuring smile while they think about their answer or pausing what you are doing when you ask indicate that you are genuinely interested. Though quite simple in nature, small signals like these are often missing from our day-to-day interactions with loved ones that we live with. On busy days, weeks, and months, it is easy to get caught up in all of the things that need to get done so we miss opportunities to pause and have meaningful conversations. In your curiosity, set the stage for your teen so that they can feel comfortable in sharing without questioning whether or not you really want to know.
You can also make an effort to watch/read/listen to those things they are interested in together or on your own. Then, you can share your own thoughts or reactions with them. This way, you are signaling to them your interest to know them on a different, more personal level and breaking up the typical conversations you have with one another. You are creating dialogue that shifts away from the typical parent-to-child interaction.
Spending Time Getting To Know Your Teen (Therapy for Teens in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe)
Next, you can carve out a period of time to spend with them. Maybe it’s a whole afternoon, or weekend day. Whatever feels manageable given all of the other responsibilities that demand your time. Let your teen take the reins in planning this day, fully. Of course, you can offer any logistic insight if needed and set a budget for them to work within, but your teen gets to decide what you do and when they do, you go along with it. Don’t yuck their yum, as they say. Even if it does not sound at all exciting to you. Even if you have a million other things to do. In this period of time, you are following their lead and showing them that you want to know who they are and what they enjoy. Approach this time with curiosity, attempting to understand who your teen is on a deeper level.
While getting to know your teen through a different lens, try to share other pieces of yourself as well. It will be hard for your teen to get to know you as anything other than a parent if you only play the parent role with them. Are there stories from your own upbringing that you can share? What is going on for you at work? What have you taken interest in lately and why? What did you find personally compelling about the latest book that you read? Offer your teen opportunities to know you as more than just the responsible adult who takes care of them.
Seeking Help in Getting To Know Your Teen (Therapy for Teens in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean City)
With methods like these, you can start to broaden the roles you play in each other’s lives. You can start to see your teen as more than just *your* teen and they can see that you are interested in them, with no other agenda. If you need help in understanding your teen, consider speaking to an individual or family therapist to help understand what is coming up for you and help in the process.
Knowing whether to seek out an individual or family therapist can be confusing—consider an individual therapist for yourself if you notice that while trying some of these methods in getting to know your teen, you are coming across roadblocks that feel personal to you. Some examples of this could be that you are having a hard time breaking the mold of how your parents were raising you or perhaps you are having a hard time accepting that your child is growing up and that is getting in the way of getting to know your teen on a deeper level. If the struggles in implementing these methods feel more about your dynamic together, it may help to consider family therapy for the both of you. This could mean that there are unresolved issues that are keeping you from being able to connect or that you are both having trouble seeing, understanding, and shifting your relationship. No matter what, therapists at The Center For Growth can help. We offer therapy for teens at our offices in Philadelphia, Ocean City, NJ, Mechanicsville, VA and Santa Fe, NM. Please call 215-922-5683 x 100 or self schedule an appointment online with one of our therapists.