How can I best help my teenager?
These are the most basic questions that I run into. Parents love their kids even when they feel they are sometimes dealing with an alien from another planet. The reason you can feel that way at times is because, to a great extent, that is EXACTLY who you are dealing with.
Whether your child came to you as an infant, a toddler, or in early or late childhood, when they hit the adolescent stage, you can really feel like, “Oh man! Where did my kid go and how did they get replaced with this alien that I don’t even know anymore?”
The truth is that we all land here on this gorgeous earth as aliens. We don’t know what to do except to try and get our needs met. When we don’t have language, that can be a difficult task which requires the skill of parental interpretation.
Your teenager is most likely feeling a bit alien in their own body. And, like an infant, they often don’t understand their own needs and therefore can’t come up with the words to properly express their feelings of isolation or angst.
This is where parents can come in really handy. The best way to help is to:
- Listen (without talking).
- Ask pertinent questions so they can unravel their thoughts by practicing critical thinking.
- Try not to take things personally.
For most parents, loving their child is a given and it is heartbreaking when that doesn’t feel like enough. Keep rowing your own boat through your own current stage of development, answer questions as honestly as possible when asked, tell your child how you came through this difficult stage. But, above all remember this from Sci-Fi’s: aliens need answers in order to survive in an unfamiliar world. In the same way, your child needs to find their own answers in order to be able to move healthily into the adult stage of life.
Above all, have sympathy and patience because they are feeling a bit like aliens themselves.