Parenting Teenagers

Parenting a Teenager - Giving them what they need

connecting with your teenager Nov 17, 2022

I have been reading “Parenting the new teen in the age of anxiety” by Dr. John Duffy and in the first part of the book he shares an interesting insight.


Picture this…


Today is the first day of school for your Fourteen year old daughter.  It is not just the first day of school … It is the first day of high school. While she is excited about the possibilities of her freshman year, she is also experiencing the natural fears and concerns related to this new adventure. As she gets out of the car and starts walking towards the school, she glances back at you. She is longing for one last reassuring look from you before she disconnects from you for the day. That eye to eye contact that only a parent and child can have.


But instead, When she looks back she sees the back of your phone and hears you say “smile for the picture”.  


When I read Duffy’s version of this scene, I couldn’t help but have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I have done this.  Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if many of you are experiencing the same.  


Please know that I am not trying to make you feel bad. As you may or may not know, I am an advocate of the life is a journey mindset. All of us have had moments where we could have acted differently. We have done or said things that upon reflection we regret.  But, when you approach your life journey with a growth mindset, these missteps are viewed with gratitude because of the learning opportunities they provide.


As I thought about this scene playing out, it occurred to me that the lesson was on the topic of awareness. Here is what I mean.  In this example, what the daughter needed as she was walking into the school was a reassuring look from her parent but the parent in this example didn’t pick up on her need.   There was a lack of awareness regarding what was needed at this moment. . If we are honest this happens all of the time. Your teenager picks a fight with a sibling because they are overwhelmed during finals week and you respond with disappointment but all they wanted was a hug.  Or  they come to you complaining about a teacher and you offer ideas for fixing the problem, but all they wanted was for you to listen and acknowledge what they are experiencing.  Then the next day they start complaining about a teacher and you listen and acknowledge what they are experiencing but this time they wanted your ideas for fixing the problem.  We have all been there … right.  


The challenge is for us to continue to develop our ability to “read” the situation so that we can respond appropriately.  Think of it this way.  You have a tool box full of potential ways to serve your son or daughter as they move through their teen years. For example: you have knowledge, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, expectations, belief, gratitude, etc.  Your goal is to respond with the appropriate tool in any given situation.  If you were to ask any true craftsman about their tools, they will tell you that the right tool makes all the difference in the world. 


So here are two action steps for you.  The next few times you engage with your teenager, be very intentional about “reading” the situation and responding with the right tool. 


Ask yourself … What do they need from me right now?  Or how can I best serve them right now?


If you sense that you are missing the mark, just ask them.


How can I best help you right now?  Or What can I do right now to support you?


The end goal is to continue to develop your ability to connect and empower your teenager to be their absolute best.  


Remember.  A change in perspective … changes everything.


Jim White

Family Enrichment Coach





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