Parents & Teens: When Dynamics Change

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Doctor Neha: Hi, everybody. We are in Costa Rica. This is Erica here.

Erica: Hi.

Doctor Neha: We have a green goddess drink, which has celery, basil and ginger. And you have…?

Erica: The cacao kick.

Doctor Neha: Fresh cacao beans, coconut milk, cayenne, banana and lots of yumminess. We’re in Costa Rica, and we’ve been having some really good discussions. So I asked Erica if she would be willing to ask her questions out loud so all of you could learn. So thanks for doing it.

Erica: Thanks for having me. It’s been fun. What a great trip. A great time in Costa Rica. As I’ve gotten to know you this week, I’ve learned that you do a lot of work in communication. I have three teenagers. Communication can be challenging. I have a good relationship with them, and we communicate well. But I’ve also gone through some life transformations over the last few years. Something that’s come to my awareness is wanting to learn and understand conscious parenting. So one of the questions I have for you, knowing that you do work with teens, is if you’re trying to change or make a paradigm shift from some patterns or ways of communicating, but I know now that they may not be the best, how do I transition? How do I move into more conscious parenting and knowing that my role is to help them become whatever they came here to be? How can you make the transition—they already think you’re crazy at this age or you’re weird, but that’s okay—with some tools or tips on how to navigate not parenting a certain way anymore? Is there a way to share wanting to change the relationship and give them wings without going into lingo that loses them.

Doctor Neha: Wow, what a brave question! So thank you for being a parent embarking on breaking patterns, stopping the cycles that you think are dysfunctional and wanting to do this. This is so incredible. The first thing that comes to mind is that your kids watch who you are more than they hear what you say.

Erica: That’s a good point.

Doctor Neha: So, yes, I’m going to give you some tips on how to communicate, but I think the fact that you are becoming more conscious—even sometimes saying, “I was wrong”—you’re teaching them in that moment to take ownership and acknowledge when they make a mistake and that it’s okay. So there is probably the biggest step. Because they will be successful with other humans and in relationships if they can take ownership for themselves and they’ve seen a role model who would do it.

The second tip is in actually communicating to them when you’re changing. Here’s why: Teens really like to figure things out and like to feel like are starting to gain control. So even though they’re not in control, they’re starting to gain some control, driving the car, using the ATM, having a curfew. They also know how to get what they want from you. They know what you value, whether it’s grades, whether it’s how they behave, whether it’s their chores, whether it’s how they spend their money, whether it’s how they act with their friends, what they were—they usually know what will make their parent happy. So when you start changing and you don’t say something to them, now all of a sudden they can’t trust what they knew about how to handle you.

This is actually it’s not just about teens, but it’s about any relationship. So if in your family or in your romantic relationship, when you start to change, it’s good to give someone a heads up. Let them know so that they’re not shocked or surprised by what’s different. As I’m saying this I’m remembering being in a relationship and when I was upset about something, I said to my partner, “This is how I’m going to change: I’m not going to initiate coming close to you or being affectionate with you because it seems right now that you need space or the last time I walked over and you kind of ignored me or and that was really upsetting to this person.” So most of the time it works to let somebody know ahead of time how you’re changing.

Let’s say you leave this retreat and you’ve learned some things about yourself and you’re going to be doing something a little bit different. Say you’re going to be drawing boundaries differently. Here’s what you would say, “Hey guys, I’m so glad I’m home. I had a great trip. I learned how I could be a better parent. And I wanted to share that with you. I learned some ways that I can be a better mom.” Which is different than saying, “I learned some things that I really think you could use.” You’re leading by example.

Erica: There’s a difference because I’m taking accountability. I’m saying I want to get better—not I want to make you better.

Doctor Neha: That’s right. It’s such a different thing in relationship as well as in this exchange. So make sure they know that something is changing so that they can continue to trust you. Then, have you ever heard of Shefali Tsabary?

Erica: No.

Doctor Neha: She wrote a book called The Awakened Family. She also did a wonderful talk with Oprah on the awakened family. So Google that. I would say she does what I align with but specifically for family units. Then I would suggest the teen program called 20-8-teen (that was when I did it in 2018) that’s about mastering conversations with peers, partners, and parents. I’m teaching them how to communicate, how to be accountable, how to take ownership, and how when they feel betrayed or violated to actually voice that instead of stuffing it.

Erica: Is this something that you can bring into the schools? Especially in middle school or even in high school because it’s not something they’ve ever heard. I never learned it. no one taught me that. They learn to backstab, talking about each other, etc., so I think it’s necessary.

Doctor Neha: First I’d need to create an online course so it’s scalable. I liked hearing the question because it tells me that there’s a need and that parents would want this.

Erica: There is!

Doctor Neha: All right. For all of you who have teenagers or children or once were a teenager, now you know how important it is to know how to communicate and sort out your emotions. And those of you who are becoming more conscious, make sure—whether it’s a teenager or your partner or your family member—you let them know that something is changing. Give them a heads up so they don’t say things like, “Why are you talking all weird like that?”

Erica: This is what I get: rolled eyes, weird looks and then they start texting each other.

Doctor Neha: Thank you so much, Erica.

Erica: Thank you.

Doctor Neha

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