“Sometimes, you’re hard to talk to…” says my 14 year old daughter this week as we discuss some poor performance with grades. Hard to hear, especially from a therapist’s kid! But we both got through the moment and she’s doing better at school, at least for now. And, we’ve talked through some of the barriers that had lain between us during tough conversations. It brought to me some thoughts about what works for us, and I wanted to share with you:
- Take time – Seems simple. Isn’t. We’ve made a regular routine of un-winding with each other on the driveway under the basketball net. Some days are longer, better than others. But it gives us a chance to laugh and breathe some, taking the tensions away.
- Start where they are – Another deceptively simple idea. Isn’t. At fourteen, my daughter’s tackling a range of developmental hurdles including self-care, emotional awareness, growing spirituality and social connection…to name just a few. (For more on this, see Lisa Damour’s excellent book “Un-tangled”.
- Go the 20% in their direction on emotions – Most teens don’t discuss emotions easily. We can give permission by disclosing some of our own in gentle ways of storytelling. “I’ll never forget the embarrassment of the low test scores when I was entering high school. Maybe you’ve felt this way…” Then shut up. Go where your kid takes you. We can learn so much about the “veiled” world they live in.
- Take extra care of yourself – Therapists experience a lot of burnout. We care too much. We work too long hours and “over-help” our clients. Make sure you are managing the inevitable fatigue that comes with our profession, or you’ll never be a good parent.