The bitter but enjoyable deep taste of raw broccoli lights up your tongue. You hear the inner vibration and crunch of your chewing.
You feel the cold water flowing from the spigot of the sink on your hands. The enticing smell of bread baking in the oven wafts into your nose.
You’re looking down, running water through raw vegetables. You know that your spouse will be home from work any minute now.
That’s when your ears pick up the sound of keys in the front door. Then came the chug and thud of it opening and closing. You could tell immediately from the weight of the footsteps that it wasn’t your spouse.
It was your daughter.
But there was no usual locking sound. She hadn’t locked the door behind her. You taught her better than that.
Meanwhile, the pace of the footsteps seem off: faster than usual. You felt and heard the presence of your daughter slip right behind you, pass you, and go into the living room.
No hello. No usual rant about the day coming in. She’s usually very talkative about the current events.
But not today. Why? Something was wrong. That much was easy to deduce.
“You didn’t lock the door,” you say to her in a gentle manner.
“Oh, sorry,” she says with a sigh, reminded, as she gets up from the couch.
Her vocal tone said it all.
You leave the sink, with the vegetables in it. She’s wearing her usual hoodie, a little oversized. It covers much of her body, but you don’t see anything wrong with her at the physical level.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
Be A Good Listener
As a parent, yes, you have far more life experience than your child. Sure, you have more wisdom. But you’ll create a communicative disconnect if you always hang that over them.
There are points where you’ll need to assert authority in the house for the sake of keeping order. But this is not one of those times. What they need right now is a friend, because they may have none.
When your teenager feels isolated at school, the only way to get to the root of why is by listening to them. Listen to what they do and don’t say.
You know your child, but check your own biases too. To do so requires self-awareness.
Once you listen to what they have to say, then respond. Don’t harp on about something small that they may have forgotten to do, or some tiny rule they may have broken.
It may not have been intentional; they’re human, too.
Pull From Your Experience
You’ve listened to your teenager and asked thorough questions to gather information. Now, run both what they do and don’t say through the filters of your past experience.
Use both logic and creativity to connect your past experience with their current.
Some may not want to admit it, but we’re all more like our parents than many like to think. This applies to your teenager as well. Not all are the same, but they’re more like you than they may want to admit.
So, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to empathize with whatever it is that they’re going through.
They’re a half-copy of you.
You should acknowledge that you may have more wisdom and experience than they do. But that doesn’t mean that you know everything.
Kids will surprise you, and everyone in this world knows something that you don’t.
So, be open to the fact that your teenager may know a few things that you don’t. Move with the flow of the conversation. Don’t feel intimidated by what you may not know, because you are the adult.
Technical things may have changed since you were their age. But that doesn’t mean that human nature has.
Connect with them there with your past experience.
Suggest A Solution That’s Custom For Your Teenager
Your child is a half-copy of you, but they’re not you.
They’re like you. You are a part of them, but they’re not your clone. They’re their own individual, with their own identity. They have their own life story that’s beginning to play out.
You should respect that.
This means that what worked for you in your previous experience may not work for them. Joining a sports team may have worked for you, but that doesn’t mean that the same is the solution for them.
The story of your previous experience holds gems of wisdom that are universal. But that doesn’t mean that your exact experience is a cookie-cutter solution for all.
You have to know your teenager.
Are they introverted or extroverted? What are they passionate about?
For instance, you may be an introvert who found friends in roleplaying games. But your child may have been born an extrovert who likes sports more.
They may have many of your personal traits, but they need an answer that works for them. Their story is different than yours. Their path and experience is different than yours, and so is their generation.
You should take all of this into account as you suggest solutions. But you can’t if you don’t listen to them. You can’t if you don’t know your child.
And getting to know your child actually should have begun long before this incident.
Watch Them Grow
Growing pains come in many forms. You may suggest something. You may connect with them on an emotional level.
But you shouldn’t try to solve their problems for them.
If you do, it will become harder for them to transition to adult life. They will become dependent on you past a healthy age for them to be.
To listen with empathy will help to prevent them from feeling alone. It will help them to know that you love and support them. But remember that teenhood is a golden time.
They’re finding out who they are inside. This may make for mismatches in social groups. In this case, it’s natural for them to not feel like they fit in right away.
Some teens never experience the feeling of fitting in. But this doesn’t actually have to be a bad thing. The reason why they’re not fitting in could be because they’re smarter than everyone else.
It could also be because they are truly unique in their own way.
As their parent, you can guide them into this self-discovery by showing such support. This can do wonders for their confidence and self-esteem, even if they never do get to fit in.
In this case, this is not a reason to feel sad; it’s a reason to celebrate. It means that they have a mark of greatness upon them. Every great person in history experienced some form of loneliness.
This occurred for the precise reason that they were great and didn’t fit in.
Your child may be great. It’s just that they may not realize it yet.
Show them how great they really are, and can yet be.
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