You and your teen may sleep under the same roof. But some days, it feels like you’re living worlds apart. So, how can you reconnect with a distant teen? In this article, I’ll outline five healthy responses to teens who constantly push their parents away.
1. Work Hard to Understand What They’re Going Through
Your teen is pushing you away for a reason. So to start understanding why, you might just want to ask the obvious question: “What’s behind your anger/distance?” Understanding your teen’s world and having empathy will help soften his heart and draw you closer together. Keep in mind that your teen is geared toward independence, so some space is normal. Or it could be that your teen is tired of being around you all the time and just needs a break. Or maybe he is making poor choices and doesn’t want to be judged by you. Whatever is creating the gap, it’s your role as the parent to find out and stay connected.
2. Check How Much You Correct Your Teen… You Might Need to Back Off
Do you demand perfection? Are you correcting your teen all the time? If so, it’s no surprise that they don’t want to be in the same space as you. Your teen needs to hear encouraging words from you in order to feel safe and valued. Constant correction only causes teens to check out. There are also serious opportunity costs to spending all your time correcting your teen: it leaves no time to get to know each other, spend time together, or build a stronger relationship. So back off, show some grace, and get to know your teen again.
3. Speak Your Love to Them in a Way They Understand
Your teens needs to know that you love them in order to connect with you. It’s possible that you’re telling your teen you love her, but she doesn’t hear it, because she’s wired differently. Learn her language and speak it. Be creative and try different ways to let her know how much you love her. And when your teen does finally come around, don’t brush him off or make him wait for a more convenient time to talk to you. Pay attention to the one who’s right there, before they are gone for good.
4. Ask Tough Questions and Really Pay Attention to the Answers
Most parents are afraid to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions because they may not like the answers. But ask anyway. Be direct and ask your teen: “What am I doing that is keeping us from connecting?” If your teen gives you an answer you don’t like, or don’t agree with, that’s okay. You don’t have to immediately fix your teen, just LISTEN! You don’t need to correct his response. Instead ask more questions and listen carefully to the answers, and learn why he thinks the way he does. Then deal with the heart of the matter.
5. Keep Pursuing Your Teen, Even When They Act Like They Want Nothing to Do With You
You need to be willing to invest your time and make changes in your schedule in order to build back trust. Your relationship with your child is worth the time and effort to chase after him. Don’t wait for your teen to pursue you! That’s not his role. That’s your job. Your teen needs to know that no matter what they do, you will still love him. There may be consequences for his behavior and challenges ahead, but don’t stop loving your teen. Pursue your teen, just like God goes after the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost child.
If your teen doesn’t respond to these actions and what you’re doing isn’t working, you may need outside help––someone to bridge the gap and intervene between you and your child. Remember at all times to take your cares to the Lord, who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Hey moms and dads … if your teen is pushing you away, they’re doing so for a reason. One of the greatest challenges of parenting is trying to understand why that teen who has been given so much, is walking away from the ones that love them the most. You want to know the truth? It’s probably something you’re doing that doesn’t settle well with them. Or it’s something that you’re not doing that they would love to have as a part of your relationship. Your job is to figure out which one it is, to put them first, and make the change in the only one that you can really change––and that’s you! It’s saying this: “Lord, search me. Give me a test. Know my anxious thoughts. See if there’s any hurtful way in me.” This is about connecting and reconnecting, and you have to take the first step toward your teen. It’s called grace.