We’re losing connection with our adolescents – if you’re a parent you’ll be like, “No shit, Sherlock,” as you watch your precious children move away from you at what feels like the speed of light.
Adolescence (that’s ages 9 – 25) is a time of moving away. We are biologically programmed to do that. One of the functions of adolescence is to push against our parents as we strengthen our independence muscles and courage until we are ready to step into the outside world.
As a human species this serves to strengthen us with diversity as we open up our gene pool. It’s a normal, natural part of being human.
Which makes those pre-adolescent, early years so vitally important. That’s the time when your children are wired to bond with you and to be connected.
Today’s parents point their fingers at technology as a culprit of the issues that are part of today’s adolescents. And yes, I agree. Today’s ‘digital natives’ are already moving away and breaking their connection with us before they’ve even had a chance to make as many connections as we’d like.
Social media contracts feel like a flimsy line of defence when our children’s brains are all ready wired for connection. They have been connecting with social media from a much younger age. As tiny infants they watched us connect with our phones. It started then. When our biological connection style is mirroring. And it has continued throughout their lives with hundreds of examples.
No wonder they can’t wait to get their own phone. The freedom of connection to their peers beckons enticingly.
As a human species, this has been slowly changing. And the place it’s so noticeable is in the bedroom. Going back thousands of years, human babies slept squashed up with their parents. It made sense – it was warmer. And, in case of attack, you were much safer in a group.
Then fast forward to hundreds of years ago, when families shared rooms, or huts, for sleeping. Lots of extended families slept together in houses built specifically for sleeping.
With the relatively recent emphasis on one family, one house, families began to have a bedroom for parents and other bedrooms for children. In some families it is still common for siblings to share a bedroom when they’re younger.
As our houses get bigger, siblings are happy to have their own rooms and as they grow into adolescence, many children welcome the idea of their own space. It is something they love and value. The space and privacy to be their own person. To figure themselves out. I remember how important it was for me to have my own room.
My point is that over the past 1000 years, then 100 years, the way in which we have been sleeping has led to less connection within our families. Slowly this has eroded away.
Now, with the rise of the use of technology, our connection time is eroding again. As a species, we’re going through a massive change in the way in which we are connecting. Some of the changes are great, some are not. Time will show us how this will play out.
And in the meantime, savvy parents will want to stay as connected as they can to their adolescents.
My biggest piece of advice is to be proactive and look for ways to intentionally connect with your children in person. That means face to face time, skin to skin contact (hugs ❤️), touch – time to be, not do. Time spent together is never wasted. One of my favourite memories from past summer is hanging out in the garden with my eldest daughter, laughing together at the dog’s antics.
If connection is something you want to strengthen, find out about ‘Teen Talk’ – the online course that teaches you how to talk with your adolescents so they listen, and listen to your adolescents so they talk.
If the way in which you are communicating and connecting could be stronger, step up, be proactive and strengthen those bonds.