This was first published on KSL.com
My husband and I have six children and have always had a happy home, or until the last few years anyway. We have always been a close family but the last few years we can’t seem to connect well with our older kids. I understand that the changes of puberty and high school can be overwhelming but my older children seem to be angry, disconnected and impatient with us and their younger siblings. What can I do to diffuse all this hostility and connect my family again?
The real reason that anyone behaves in a badly is they are scared of failure — not being good enough, or loss — the fear of missing out, being mistreated, or being taken from. It is these fears, which cause us and our kids to feel grouchy, angry and even mean at times.
During the teenage years, children are experiencing more fear and insecurity than ever before. They are also going through a natural process of starting to pull away from the family, so they can eventually become independent adults. The two of these factors together can make for a great deal of moody anger and rude behavior.
Anger, frustration and negativity that come across as misdirected rage towards the family, are really suppressed fear. When anger and fear are shut down, not accepted or pushed aside they can be suppressed, which can lead to exaggerated and explosive behavior.
Just like happiness and sadness, frustration and anger are emotions that require validation and time. We must validate the feelings that come up in our older children, listen to them, and honor their right to be experiencing this and feeling the way they do, instead of just correcting them. They must be allowed to be angry, scared and grouchy at times. However, guidance is often needed to teach teens how to process and express their anger in acceptable ways. You must understand the huge boil of emotions they are experiencing at this time, and focus more on connection than correction.
Suppressed anger can look like these three behaviors in your teen — denial, withdrawal and brooding.
Suppressed anger and the behaviors associated with it can be corrected as you move your teen out of fear into greater trust and love. There is a great worksheet on our website that steps you through an Emotional Autopsy to process emotions. I highly recommend you get it and look for ways to show your teen how to use it. If they are interested in trying it, take a picture of it with your phone and text it to them. (But only do this if you have asked if they are interested and say they want it.) You can also help them to experience less fear by teaching them (by example and the things you say) the two important principles below, which help lessen fear.
Another great way to connect to your teen is to make sure you get some one on one time with them every week. Make this a time of fun and be engaged in learning about your child’s life and mindset, instead of just approaching this time as disciplinary correction or getting to the bottom of their issues. Take them out for food (they love that) and make sure there is no lecturing or interrogations. This is a time to listen and validate their right to be where they are and think they way they do. You might want to make sure you have our Validating Communication Worksheet and study it beforehand so you handle this right.
Like all of us, children and especially teenagers want to be heard, accepted and acknowledged. Listen to them and invest in the relationship. Speak about your concerns from a place of vulnerability (sharing your fears) instead of your authority and really make the effort to show up consistently each week. Share with your child how you see every situation in your life an opportunity to learn and how this helps you come out of fear and into greater trust and love.
Some great questions to ask teens when you are together include:
Be patient with these conversations and drop your expectations or attachments to a specific outcome. Trust that with greater connection your child will feel safer and safer. Anger and misdirected rage take time to heal. Your child may also need some professional help to gain some new skills for dealing with their thoughts, emotions and experiences at school. Check out some of the coaching options we offer for parents and teens.
Feel reassured that the foundations you continue to lay down for your children are never in vain. No matter what the age of your children, they watch you and your behavior as an example and crave connection and validation from you. Do your best to make sure your language and your behavior heal instead of hurt. Commit to validating and continue to pour into your relationship with them. Here is a link to access many other articles and tips for dealing with teens.
You can do this.
Master Life Coaches Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham run www.claritypointcoaching.com and offer coaching workshops and classes for both parents and teens.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.