We are deep into the summer holidays, and hopefully, families are finding time for fun and connection. For parents, as we try to plan activities for family togetherness, there may be times when our teens aren't quite as keen to participate as they once were, which can leave parents feeling a little rejected.
Managing feelings of rejection from your teenager can be challenging, as it involves navigating your own complex emotions while trying to uphold a healthy parent-child relationship. This relationship phase can take many parents by surprise given they believed they previously had a strong relationship and would be protected from future disconnect. Take comfort, there are some strategies to help you cope:
1. Increase your self-awareness.
Recognize and validate your emotions when they arise: It's natural to feel hurt, disappointed, or rejected when your teenager pulls away or behaves in a dismissive manner. Acknowledge your emotions and give yourself grace that these emotions are understandable in these circumstances.
Reflect on your own reactions: Take a step back and reflect on how you respond to your teenager's behavior. Differentiate between your feelings and your behaviours. Be aware of any personal triggers or patterns that may exacerbate feelings of rejection. How to do this-spend some time reflecting on your past. Have you ever physically felt this way in the past in different relationships? Did similar interactions in the past leave you questioning your self-worth? Did your coping strategies to manage the rejection serve a function, did it prevent preferable outcomes? This self-awareness can help you respond more effectively in present relationships instead of reactively repeating old patterns to old wounds.
2. Communicate openly and honestly: Initiate conversations with your teenager to highlight how their behavior or actions (while not minimizing their feelings) make you feel. Provide them with helpful feedback on how they can express their feelings to you so that you are able to listen and support them more effectively. Choose a calm and non-confrontational moment to express your concerns, emphasizing that you care about their well-being and the relationship you share. Encourage open dialogue and active listening, allowing your teenager to express their perspective without interruptions or judgments. Encourage and support them to do the same for you.
3. Empathize with your teenager: Put yourself in your teenager's shoes and try to understand their point of view. Adolescence is a period of self-discovery and identity formation, and they may be grappling with their own emotions and challenges. Empathy can help you foster a deeper connection and strengthen your relationship.
4. Respect their boundaries: Teenagers need space to grow and explore their individuality. Respect their need for privacy, independence, and personal boundaries. Avoid being overly intrusive or demanding, as this can contribute to feelings of rejection. Strike a balance between being involved in their lives and giving them the freedom they require. Try to keep in mind that this need for exploration and space does not last forever and your relationship will not be ‘stuck’ in this state. This awareness will help manage big reactions to perceived permanent loss.
5. Focus on shared activities and quality time: Find common interests or activities that you can engage in together. Plan regular family outings or activities that allow for positive bonding experiences. Quality time spent together over quantity can help rebuild trust, reinforce the parent-child bond, and reduce feelings of rejection.
6. Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or support groups who can provide a listening ear and offer guidance. Sometimes, discussing your feelings with others who have faced similar challenges can provide perspective and support.
7. Practice self-care: Take care of your own emotional well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy, reduce stress, and recharge your energy. Prioritize self-care to maintain a positive mindset and emotional resilience.
Remember, building and maintaining a healthy parent-teenager relationship is an ongoing process. It requires patience, understanding, and adaptability. With time, open communication, and mutual respect, you can work through feelings of rejection and foster a stronger connection with your teenager.
Disclaimer: The content contained in this post is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, consultation, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek the advice of your qualified mental healthcare provider in your area with any personal questions you may have.