Oh, Behave: Adolescent shutdown



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My 12-year-old daughter seems to hate talking to my husband and me now. She rolls her eyes, slams doors and has wild changes in her temper. I know this is part of growing up, but how do I stay calm and attached to her?
SHUT OUT, FREDERICTON, NB

JOE:
Welcome to adolescence. My best advice is to divide your question into
two separate questions, the first being, “How do I stay calm?” and the
second, “How do I stay attached to her?”

You can stay calm by putting a number of new strategies in place:

  • Remind yourself that this is a journey and that ‘this too shall
    pass’. This is a helpful start. Reflect on who she was prior to this
    stage and know that she’s still in there and she’ll be back!
  • Be careful not to engage at every level. There is a danger for
    parents when they personalize their teen’s behaviour, so be cautious
    about this. Teens want to talk to peers and not to their parents, but
    this is normal and not something parents need to worry about. Let them
    know you are there to listen when they would like to talk, and only
    insist on them talking when, or if, you get to the big stuff such as
    drugs, pregnancy and depression. You get the idea.

When you
ask, “How do I stay attached to her?” my immediate response is, “You are
attached to her.” She is acting out adolescence, not her attachment to
you. If you were attached at age 11 and nothing big or traumatic has
happened this year, you can reassure yourself that 12 years of
attachment can withstand a few years of distance! This is a point at
which conversation with other parents (formal and informal) and reading
books on the subject of parenting adolescents can be invaluable. Don’t
worry, she’ll be back.

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