Life Support: Immediate Relationship Repair with Your Teen
- Monday, February 23, 2004
Perhaps you're about to "lose it" or maybe you've already lost it with your teenager. Maybe you don't even know how to repair the relationship when your teen says that he hates you. Perhaps communication is awkward-or nonexistent. If you're in the middle of tremendous conflict with your teenager, don't panic! There's hope. There are steps you can take right away to dramatically decrease your fear and increase your chances of reconnecting with your teenager. Even if you already have a good relationship with your teen but want to make it better, these tips will help.
The very first thing you need to do to combat the negative outcomes of poorly managed conflict is seek forgiveness.
Ever heard the story of the monkey and the lion? "That's incredible, having a monkey and a lion together in the same cage," said the guest at a local zoo. "How do they get along?" "Pretty well, for the most part," answered the zookeeper. "Once in a while they have a disagreement, and we have to get a new monkey."
Perhaps your teenager feels like one of those monkeys-that when the clashes come, he's sure to be the casualty. Your teenager may feel that each time you get into a disagreement, you come down on him like a strong lion. Clashes like these can leave a young person feeling wounded, as if his spirit has been "killed."
If this is the turn your conflicts have taken, it's very possible that your adolescent is dealing with unresolved anger. And research indicates that anger is physically, emotionally, and relationally damaging to teenagers. As parents, you must be persistent in helping your children deal constructively with their anger. How? By making sure your children feel comfortable approaching you and expressing their feelings. By watching your words and making sure you're not belittling your teen but building him up. By acknowledging your own mistakes and handling them with maturity.
So how should you seek forgiveness from your teen? These are three steps.
1. Take full responsibility for your actions. It doesn't help to point out your teenager's mistakes when you are seeking forgiveness. All that does is invalidate his feelings and lesson the power of forgiveness (not to mention reopen the hurts that caused his anger in the first place). If your teenager needs to seek your forgiveness, let him figure that our and come to you on his own. It would mean more to you in the long run anyway.
Avoid placing blame or making excuses. Adding either of these two elements is like pouring salt on an open wound. If you feel the need to blame or make excuses, take a step back until your heart is more ready.
2. Be soft when approaching your teenager. Forgiveness loses its luster when requested with a harsh voice. Ask your teen if she is ready to talk yet, especially if the wounds inflicted are deep. Most importantly, be sincere with your softness. Authentic vulnerability gives your teenagers the chance for complete healing. It offers them a safe environment in which to share their struggles and even confront you when needed.
3. Ask specifically how you have hurt your teen. This allows your young adult to share his feelings-a skill that he'll certainly need throughout his adult life. If your teen isn't willing to share, don't push the subject. Sometimes you can help your teenager understand himself better by asking more specific questions about how he feels. The important thing is to not push or degrade your teen if he doesn't want to open up right away. Not sharing can mean that he isn't ready, that the hurt is still very strong, or that he doesn't feel safe enough to share. What this step does is validate his pain-that is, acknowledge that his feelings are real and important and worth spending time on. This is a great way to release anger or hurt feelings.
What if your teen refuses to forgive? If you have followed these three steps and your teen still refuses to forgive you, there are several possible reasons why. Perhaps the offense was deeper than you realized or she wants to see your behavior change first. Perhaps she is still hurt by past offenses. Whatever the reason, the best thing is to be patient with your teen. No matter how she responds, never drop the issue altogether simply because she isn't ready to forgive you. Let the situation cool off for awhile, then come back and repeat the three steps.
Seeking forgiveness is a great first step in reconnecting with your teen.
Adapted from "Communicating with Your Teen" by Greg & Michael Smally © 2003 by Smalley Publishing Group, LLC. Used by special permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. For any other use, please contact Tyndale House Publisers, Inc. for permission. All rights reserved.
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