Rolled eyes. Deep sighs. Glares and the silent treatment may be part of your glorious differentiating, individuating teen. It means your teen is moving away from you and defining off your example, as they should in their stage of development. Even if you have seen your guru, practice self-care, pray, meditate, read your scriptures, identified your triggers, aligned your chakras, your teen’s movement away from you can be sometimes uncomfortable, disheartening, maddening or scary. Nevertheless, it is possible to support their growth, let go and enjoy the ride, even if it gets bumpy. It may help to understand the different positions parents and teens occupy in the social order.
Popular culture calls this breach between understandings, the generation gap. Since cars were invented and teens asked for the keys on weekends and had a separate time away from parents, teens have been creating their own culture. Rock and roll was born as a result! Today teens create their own language, meanings and of course music. Teen culture and various subcultures are dynamic and ever-changing. It flies at the speed of the internet through social media. In other parts of the world, the generations are not so divided. While the amount of time spent with each other daily is greater in tribal cultures when compared to our own Western culture, are we doomed to be disengaged as parents and teens?
No! We have choices. We can consciously co-create the relationships we need.
Co-creating is a sociological and business term about relationships. Each party in a relationship shares the responsibility for the relationship and is empowered to influence the relationship. Co-creation happens all the time unconsciously. Unconscious co-creation occurs when mom or dad decide it’s not worth the battle to remind their teen for the third time to take out the trash and they do it themselves. In the new sociology of childhood, children are seen as co-creators of relationships, family culture, and community culture. Their role is obviously different than that of adults but their influence as what sociologists call “social actors” is powerful. Co-creation is a conscious effort between teens and parents to be fully involved in jointly defining the relationship.
To use the power of conscious co-creation simply means building a positive relationship by the way you choose to communicate. Empowering communication clearly shares the value that both parents and teens are responsible for the relationship.
Even if we do our psychospiritual homework and try to communicate from the heart, most of us did not grow up with conscious communication patterns, we may not have role models or examples of how to communicate this way. The following is an example lifted from my own life. The first is an unconscious conversation which many of us know all too well. The last conversation is a conscious conversation using co-creative communication skills.
Kim is a punk rocker in a town with no punk rockers. She is tall, thin, beautiful and has soulful deep blue eyes. She has punk cut, blue hair and feels most at home in a mosh pit. Even though her hair and look scream, “pay attention,” she is quite shy. Music helps her cope with her parents and stepparents. She is sick of hearing about her clothes from her stepmother. What do they know anyway?
Unconscious Conversation: Kim’s Clothes Battle
Stepmom: So, what were you thinking of wearing to Emily’s (older stepsister) wedding?
Kim: I want to wear that simple black dress you bought me last fall. I can accessorize it.
Stepmom: No! You don’t wear black to a daytime wedding. I know you! You will want to
wear combat boots with it.
Kim: Yes! And black nail polish and dark eye and lip make up (with a sarcastic tone).
Stepmom: No! I forbid it. Wait till your father hears about this.
Kim: Fine. I just won’t go.
Conscious Conversation: Kim’s Style, An Invite and Open-Mindedness
Stepmom: So, what were you thinking of wearing to Emily’s wedding?
Kim: I thought I would wear that black dress you bought me last fall and accessorize it.
Stepmom: Most etiquette books say that black for a daytime wedding isn’t appropriate. How do you feel about a shopping trip to see what we can find?
Kim: So, you want to take me shopping because you don’t want me to embarrass you? Active Listening Skill to Confirm Meaning
Stepmom: No. I want to take you shopping because you need something new. You have grown since we went shopping last. Clarification of Meaning
Kim: Ok. I’d like that. Thanks. But I don’t think we will agree about what’s appropriate. I feel disrespected when you “dis” my style. I-Message
Stepmom: I don’t disrespect you, Kim. We just don’t agree sometimes about the appropriateness of your style. We will never know about a compromise dress if we don’t go shopping and take a look at what’s out there. Let’s try to keep an open mind and try to find something that works for both of us.
Using contentious co-creative communication skills is empowering for all involved. Your teen feels heard and empowered while you, as parent share responsibility for the relationship. These exchanges can also prepare your teen to communicate as a young adult.
Learning and practicing with each other is a process. My daughters and I had to learn to laugh with one another as we practiced, even though sometimes it took us a while to find the laughter. I also learned to celebrate progress, not perfection. Most importantly, each other.