Handling Conflicts with Teens Takes Tenacity
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Q; My son and I had a good relationship until he became a teenager. Now he doesn’t share much with me and when we do talk, it often ends in conflict. I don’t like all the negativity. Is there anything we can do?
A: Being cut off from a previously good relationship with your child is hard. It is important that you had a past relationship that was not full of conflict and, in fact, was truly good. Let that fact give you the energy and focus you need now as you deal with the current situation. Do not think of how you get along now as a permanent situation. Holding on to the possibility of a different future will also help you negotiate a difficult present.
Is there anything specific that has happened that might be part of this change other than your son’s age? Have any of his friendships changed recently? There are times when people, especially boys, might close the door on talking about difficult feelings rather than discussing something specific that might be bothering them. If you know there has been a recent loss or change, just mention your confusion about how he is reacting to you differently, when it occurs, and see if he is able to make the connection and talk with you about it. Be very careful not to talk with anger or judgment, Non-verbal tones and body language can interfere with a message meant to show care and concern.
Consider the influence of male hormones on your son at this time. I highly recommend Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book on The Male Brain. There is also an eight-minute YouTube video that talks about her book findings. Getting another perspective on why your son’s changing attitude might give you some options to not be so hurt and to respond to his behaviors in new ways. Since you know your son, you would know best if he would like to watch the video or read the book himself.
Is talking about what has changed an option? Does he acknowledge that he responds differently? Does he wish things were different? If he doesn’t like what has happened to your relationship, then you are in luck. What does he think might turn things around? Does he have any recommendations for ways you can avoid triggering one another? Do you have any ideas? It might be a great question for you two to brainstorm and see what different things you could do.
Together you might come up with ideas such as:
Listening to one another before responding.
Understanding that each of you will often have a different point of view.
Asking each other about the differences between you. Are they generational, part of male-female differences, personality or a true values conflict?
Acknowledging one another for communicating needs and concerns.
Agreeing to accept differences and find a way to honor and respect each of your feelings.
You might be the person most interested in turning around your relationship with your son. If so, there are things that you can do on your own: