Why does my teen hate me?
We have all been there. You know, those days when nothing seems to make them happy. They lurk around the house as if the walls are closing in on them. They make no attempt at eye contact and all their physical cues shout, “leave me alone.” You do your best and try not to let it bother you. Busily moving about the house now made of eggshells. You ask all the regular questions; “Are you hungry, sick, sad, upset?” All met with the same indifferent response, ‘no.’
The tension in the house is palpable. Being the optimistic parent, you give it one last attempt - “You want to go do something?” Your child’s face reveals a look of disdain so fierce you are pretty sure swallowing knives seems more appealing. You retreat to your room feeling defeated and confused. You ask yourself, “What could be wrong? “What did I do?
Reality is you are not alone. After all, it wasn’t that long ago this same child used to light up when you walked in the room and couldn’t get enough of you. Now, it feels like you never knew them at all.
Now, let’s take a closer look. They lurk around house. You jump to the assumption that something is wrong. Because you are convinced of this, you immediately ascend into “Fix it” mode. You draw from your arsenal of parent detective tools and begin your “investigation.” Your child tells you nothing is wrong. You hear, “They need me to help them, I must not give up.” Your child declines your offer to go do something. You hear, “They don’t want ME, I’m not enough.” Your child gives you a look of frustration. You think, “My child HATES me.”
With all this internal dialogue it is NORMAL that you would feel defeated and confused. Fear wins.
So often in our relationships we allow fear to drive our thoughts and actions. We immediately default to a place of scarcity instead of abundance. As a result, we send the message that not only are we not good enough, but they are not good enough either.
What do you think would have happened if the parent allowed some space for their child to just…BE? What would it feel like to create a safe place for them to express their emotions no matter what they were that day? A space that didn’t feel like judgement, that didn’t require explanation. How would it feel for us if we had a space like that too?
We show our children how to experience life. If we are uncomfortable with their discomfort, how will they ever understand that having a bad day and feeling anything other than happy is…normal and OK? If we jump into action, are we taking away the time they may NEED for themselves. Time to reflect, time to feel, time to, GROW? Do we give that time to ourselves?
The need for acceptance is Universal, but does that mean it can only look a certain way? Are feelings that rank high on the happiness spectrum the only ones deserving of our favorable reception? We tell our teens, “talk about your feelings.” But what we show them often translates to, “as long as it’s what we want to hear and when we want to hear it.” Sorting through emotions takes time. Commonly feelings arrive unexpectedly and with no explanation. How many times in our lives have we struggled to find congruency with how we feel on the inside versus how we appear on the outside? If using their voice does not appear to be their medium of choice, or at least not yet. Maybe sending them the message that they are worth the wait is all the comfort they will need.