“I forbid you to be friends with that person!”
Did your parents try and pick your friends? How did that go? It’s a power and control move that only instills shame (because you obviously didn’t know how to gauge people) and defiance (because who do you think you are to tell me who I can be friends with?!).
Now as a parent, you see why your parents made your social network their concern but not one up for debate. Science has proven you’re directly impacted by the people you spend the most time with and watching your teen struggle or be led astray in relationships isn’t at the top of your wish list.
Your teenager comes home in tears, again.
“My friends have done/said something hurtful and they’ll never forgive them”, said running into their room crying and slamming the door.
This isn’t the first time and watching them ride this rollercoaster is ripping your heart out. Your first instinct is to fix or rescue, but you can tell by the sobbing coming through the bedroom door this isn’t the time, and that strategy didn’t work last time either.
Instead, you develop a coy plan on how to bring up the subject at dinner or on your drive to their evening activity (when they’re trapped in the car, LOL!) and suggest maybe they stand up to these friends or suggest they find new ones. Your teen’s response to that is an eye roll and annoyed sigh,
“You just don’t get it mom! Then I’ll have no friends!”
When your teen is struggling in a relationship, telling them to leave because people are mean, bad, or not good enough might list their spirits, yet it removes the opportunity for learning about healthy boundaries and growing emotional maturity. Although I’m not a fan of labels, this definition clearly describes what I mean, and happens as the result of ‘helicopter parenting’.
Wikipedia: “Snowflake” is a 2010s derogatory slang term for a person, implying that they have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.
Encouraging your teen to speak up respectfully builds confidence and courage for self-advocacy in future relationships. Choosing to disappear or go dark when things get hard (stonewalling/ghosting) might feel safe in the moment, but it’s toxic over time and doesn’t change anything.
Instead, help them find by their voice by role playing difficult situations using different words/phrases to clearly express themselves and create the change they’re looking for. Trust their judgement without second guessing or adding your own agenda unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Helping your teenager develop healthy relationships starts at home.
What you model for your teen becomes the normal they’ll recreate in their relationships over their lifetime. By showing your teen a 2-way relationship that includes trust, respect, acceptance (belonging) and a willingness to listen, you set them up for greater relationship success.
NOTE: I’m NOT saying be equals in authority! Creating a relationship where 2 humans have equal value isn’t the same.
Last week I wrote about the price of peer pressure and how the need for social belonging and attachment is stronger in the teenage brain, which may have them gravitate to less than healthy relationships before they realize the full impact. Regular conversations about the elements in a healthy relationship and what those sound like, feel like, and look like are the most empowering conversations you might ever have.
4. Feeling heard/listened to
These are emotional and intellectual experiences so allowing your teenager to create their own definition of each, rather than just telling them yours, supports self-identity by understanding their own values and beliefs.
Your teen’s frame of reference for healthy relationships is the anchor for conversations about ALL of their friends. Which relationships fall within their frame and why? Which ones don’t, and why? Regular conversations with open-ended, non-judgemental questions continue to support your teen’s complex thought and decision-making processes. They’re also empowered to take ownership of creating their experience rather than expecting others to change or do it for them.
Modelling healthy relationships impacts intimate relationships.
A boy’s relationship with his mom impacts how we treats women in his life. A boy who feels criticized, belittled, or controlled he may not stand up to more dominant women who treat him poorly. On the flip side, if he’s ‘babied’, he’ll prioritize his mom over his wife, and expect his partner to ‘take care of him’ in the same way.
For girls, their relationship with their Dad (or a father figure) is equally critical. If she fears him because of absolute authority and isn’t allowed to speak up or challenge boundaries, she’s more likely to allow other men to control her. If she doesn’t respect her Dad and the relationship has poor communication, she’s more likely to treat other men with disrespect or as a means to an end.
A healthy relationship with your teen holds authority with compassionate boundaries, respect and trust.
Are you ready to notch up your relationship with your teen, with greater respect and trust? Join my FREE masterclass below and learn my 3 pillars for creating an honest, connected relationship that lasts a lifetime, WITHOUT having to be a perfect parent.
Parenting is hard. Let’s do this together.