Connection is the Key

Teen tangles and relationship troubles never appear at a convenient time. They are usually waiting to be discussed at just the moment we, the parent, are about to begin cooking dinner or take a sibling to sports practice. 

Are our rangatahi testing us? 

Yes, they are! Although full credit to them, they won’t even realise they’re testing us. This popping up with something important when we’re busy is a subconscious bid by them for their place of importance in our busy lives.

The key to an effective response is connection. 

I’m the kind of parent who wants my rangatahi to feel cared for. I know what I do is equally as important as the words I say. 

Step 1:

I listen: fully, completely, and actively. If I am busy cooking dinner that doesn’t mean I have to stop what I’m doing. Chances are high, my rangatahi are asking me while I’m busy because they don’t want a full-on, 100% sit down and talk-it-out straight answer. So I trust their intuition to bring up something important at the right time for them. Have you ever noticed that some of the best conversations you’ve ever had have been while you’re also doing something else? Maybe you’re out walking, or you’re driving, or you’re cooking. It’s often while your body is relaxed and on autopilot doing something you enjoy that you’re open. Your rangatahi will sense that. Trust it and run with it. 

My rangatahi will know I’m listening because I’ll reflect back what I’ve heard them say. “It sounds like” … (insert their important point) and wait for their response.

Step 2:

Be prepared to pause the conversation if it is opening into something wider. It may be that I say, “Dinner’s ready now. Can we pause here and keep going after tea?” Or, “How about you come for a ride down to get your brother and we can talk?” They may be finished at this point and have some thinking to do. Or they may take me up on the offer. Either way, they know I’ve heard them.

Step 3:

I never pretend to have the answers or the solutions. That’s for them to figure out. Instead, I’m more interested in how they were feeling during their teen dramas, how they’re feeling now, and what I can do to support them. These are their problems, after all, they’re not shared problems. Not being the font of all-knowledge is liberating on so many levels. It keeps the problem firmly where it belongs – with my adolescent – and empowers them to find a solution that works. When the problem is theirs to solve they are only looking to me for guidance, dreaming up solutions is not my place here.

Step 4:

I circle back and find out how things have gone at a later date. Reflection is a fabulous tool to assist my rangatahi to develop an awareness of how they show up in the world. And as awareness grows and strengthens they change the way they choose. These discussions are rich pickings and something I’ll tap into at a later time, once the drama has finished, and if my rangatahi is interested in the conversation. If they’re not interested, that’s all good too. See the next step.

Step 5:

Let it all go. Even if they are upset and freaking out. I’m there to support them and their emotions and the easiest way to do that is by not taking on their emotions and carting them around with me. I just let them go. That’s my work to do and something I do away from them. I sit with my own feelings, I may journal about them, or perhaps they get screamed to the seagulls when I’m on a walk. I’m pleased we have pets. They help too. 

It’s fair to say that my rangatahi have provided me with some of my greatest learnings and personal growth challenges. As one daughter told me recently, “You’ve raised three capable kids Mum.” And yes, she’s right. While I did sometimes doubt it would ever happen, I am blessed to have raised three capable kids. 

Connection is what turned this difficult work into rich, rewarding, and fulfilling parenting.

Book in with an introductory kōrero with me to see how I can assist you in raising your rangatahi