It will happen. Maybe more times than you would like. Your teen has had enough of the social distancing and refuses to obey the house rules. You know he is lonely and has a hard time making friends. Should you forbid an in-person union? Should you stay the course and try to guide him through the ups and downs of why being safe is so important? How do you know what to do next?
First, forbidding anything can be a tough call, and may backfire. Saying no can make it seem more attractive to your child. Plus, outward disapproval might put a strain on the relationship. Your child will most likely retreat. He doesn’t want to choose, but if he has to, the parent relationship will most likely suffer. You may experience your son spending more time in his room, and what communication you did have will be less.
Watching your child continue to make the wrong choices is heartbreaking. It’s not easy at this age. Right now, his peer group is one of the biggest factors influencing his choices and behaviors.
Consider why your child so desperately wants to visit with friends. Our goal as parents is for our children to make wise choices, however, ADHD teenagers can lack maturity and self-awareness. They often don’t make the most rational choices. Lack of self-awareness and social skills directly tracks back to these executive function weaknesses.
Talk to your son without judgment and harsh restrictions. Open up the lines of communication. For example, rather than outwardly forbidding the union, ask, “What do you enjoy doing with your friend?” “What do you like about him or her?” Helping teenagers examine the “why” will help you better accommodate his wishes.
This approach explains the difference between telling your daughter how to be and allowing her to look at what makes her happy. You are giving her the power to see whether or not her choices make good sense.
Take it slow
This is something that can happen over a series of open and collaborative conversations. The more you can hear his point of view while trying not to forbid or condemn, the more you increase your chances of helping your child reflect on his choices.
Think about your son’s mood and environment. Find a time when he is comfortable and in a good mood. Check your location. A more private setting might be just what he needs to feel comfortable opening up.
Here are a few more tips to consider before starting the conversation:
Hold back your feelings, listen more – Your son will open up more if he feels heard. By holding back judgment, you are creating an atmosphere where your son feels safe to talk and will be more likely to come to you again if there is a problem.
Look at things from your son’s perspective – One of the hardest parts of being a teen is thinking that nobody understands you. The more you step into your son’s shoes and hear his perspective, the more you can give him what he needs.
Reflect, clarify, and be curious – Paraphrase what your teen says and then repeat it back to him. When you do this, you show empathy, and you can clarify your child’s concerns. Be curious and ask questions. By understanding his perspective, you are inviting him to open up more.
Don’t impose your family values or goals on the situation – Keep your agenda in mind as you continue to talk through the importance of making good decisions. Do not assume you understand your son’s reasons. Try not to apply pressure by imposing your values and goals on the situation. The end goal here is to keep your child talking and showing him the confidence that you know he can learn, grow, and make good choices.
Caroline Maguire is a mother, coach for families, and author of the new book Why Will No One Play With Me? The Play Better Plan To Help Children of All Ages Make Friends and Thrive. You can follow her parenting advice and purchase the book at carolinemaguireauthor.com.