Teens and Attachment

Sometimes our teen’s behaviour looks very little like an attachment behaviour and at those time we wonder if we really want to be any closer to them!!  They are belligerent, mouthy, sassy, rude and foul tempered.  Is this really all about hormones?  I think not.

Teens and toddlers have a lot in common; they are both trying to identify themselves and become independent.  Remember when your toddler used to play in a room away from you?   S/he would come back to the room that you were in and check to make sure you were still there.   Your child was actually trying out independence by being apart from you and then coming back when s/he needed reassurance.  A teen is doing the exact same thing by pushing you away when s/he wants independence and then reconnecting for reassurance, comforting or acknowledgement.  An elastic band best describes this attachment and separation process for an adolescent.

Developmentally, teens are in the process of learning to live independent of their parents.    Our role as parents is to encourage and support our children while they are doing this.  We encourage good decisions and choices that we see them making; “You were really taking care of yourself when you decided not to go to that party the other night – the one that got out of control.”  We also guide and help with problem solving; “I see that its’t working out for you.  Would you like us to look at this and see if together we can come up with some solutions for you?”  If they say, “No.” then reply with, “I’m here if you change your mind.”

A good book on talking to teens: How to Talk so Teens Will Listen and How to Listen so Teens Will Talk  by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber

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