There has been lots of research about how to engage with teens. Research shows that peers are more influential than parents at this stage. However it is clear from theorists such as Dan Hughes and other attachment specialists that are various ways of increasing engagement. This can be summarised as offering:
Presence, Affection, Taking an interest in their world and Increasing involvement.
PRESENCE and TAKING AN INTEREST IN THEIR WORLD
Being available time wise. This could be doing things together from crafty things, cooking, sports e.g. fishing, cycling, football, girlie days, games, walking and generally giving space to worries. Activities when we just come along side give space for feelings to emerge. You know when you are in it as time just passes. I like to refer to it as the flow. This is the moment when it is possible to really attune to your teen.
Just listen out for your inner feelings. When your child says, ‘I am fine’ does this match up with your felt sense? In therapy this is called congruence. I think we have all known someone say ‘I’m fine’ which does not feel authentic. It’s okay to for our child to to regress sometimes e.g. let them go back a developmental stage i.e. doing something just for them . By coming along side rather than enforce this, the right brain (the more emotional part) starts to feel more safe and open up.
TAKING AN INTEREST IN THEIR WORLD
We know with teens, its common for ruptures to happen when one party does not feel heard. These are common place however research shows that it is the repair process that is crucial for our teens to feel secure.
Research shows that is the responsibility of the parents to calm our kids down not them first. This means being mindful of when our own buttons are pressed. Can you be brave enough to let your child know how you felt without reverting to your own inner child feeling upset/angry too and putting that outwards onto our children?
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