When your children were born, that bonding thing went pretty well. Quite naturally, in fact. Their chubby little faces lit up every time you came into the room. These days, though, their faces darken at the sight of you. You have teenagers.
Parenting during the teen years is at least as important as it was in the early ones, says Michael Bradley, PhD, a practicing clinical psychologist and author of Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind. Believe it or not, research has revealed that the higher parts of the brain form - key word "form," as in take shape out of chaos - during adolescence. Which means good parenting is essential at this stage, if, that is, you want to have anything to do with your child's grown-up outlook on life. "This is when you are shaping the adult," Bradley says. "These are likely the most critical years of parenting."
Well, okay. Except it is also true that one of the primary jobs of adolescents is establishing themselves as independent beings, separate from you. Anthony Wolf, PhD, another teen psychologist and author of Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall, warns us, "Just your existence compromises their need to feel like independent beings."
"It's like adolescents have an allergy to parents," Wolf explains. "So if a parent's aim is to have close bonding with a teenage child, that's not realistic."
What is realistic, even important, is connecting with your teen in meaningful ways. Roni Cohen-Sandler, psychologist and author of - you've gotta love these titles - I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You, cautions that "Teens say they aren't interested, but deep down they do want to feel connected."