As Therapists Who Work With Teens, We’ve Learned a lot About Negotiating Safety
As a therapist who works with teens in NYC, I see how much parenting a teen is a tough job. Part of a teen’s healthy development is rebelling and getting space from their nuclear family, which doesn’t always feel great on the receiving end. One of the biggest challenges for a family during this time is finding a balance in the ongoing question: how do I give my kid space but help ensure they’re safe? If I feel like I am watching a car crash in slow motion, at what point do I step in and grab the wheel?
Offer Teens Your Opinion, Then Back Off
As someone wiser with more life experience, I know that you have plenty of great stuff to offer your kid, but they don’t. Or more specifically, they may not want to know that you have good stuff to offer because it somehow feels like a threat to their autonomy. So by all means, give them advice, tell them what you see; but if you are hitting a brick wall or if this is starting fights, then you may have no choice but to drop it. Further communication about said topic could push them farther away.
Parents Should Feel Confident About The Relationship They’ve Built with Their Teen
Even if your kid wants nothing to do with you now, think of the relationship you have built with them up until this point. You are their safety net and you need to communicate to them that you have their back no matter what–whether things are good or things are going up in flames. Trust that you have done a great job. Trust you have instilled not only great lessons in them, but also the ability to learn new ones.
Need Back Up? Consider a NYC Teen Therapist
As a therapist well-versed in both “parent” and “teen,” I know that sometimes the amount of space that a teen wants is not safe. However, if you are stepping in and it’s not getting anywhere, your family might need some backup. A therapist for your teen can help be a mediator, a translator, and most importantly, a neutral confidante that he or she can depend on. And that you can trust will help teach your teen how to be safe so you no longer have to be doing that hard job on your own.
And for teens who are particularly resistant to trying therapy, art therapy can also be a great option. In addition to talking, art-making, writing, and listening to music can be an essential part of therapy that both helps them feel more comfortable initially and supports the long term viability of the work.