Getting unstuck when there are problems

It seems like adults often approach teen girls already on guard, unsure what they are dealing with and waiting for her to attack at any minute. Girls feel this and they are often on guard themselves waiting for parents to pounce.

Many times I hear from girls that they don’t believe their parents or adults in their lives have any willingness to get to know them or understand them, nor do they care about her perspective or opinion.  This generates an automatic pressure.  Combine that with the fear that both parents and teen girls have for and with each other and you will often have a lot of conflict and tension.

It’s normal for relationships to have conflict.  Trying to avoid it is unhealthy but just yelling and screaming at each other is equally harmful.  Often families are caught up in extreme stances with total avoidance of an issue or hyper-focus resulting in a lot of conflict.  Most conflict is about problem solving. 

Raising a teen girl means there is going to be a lot of “discussion” on hot topics and she is most likely going to have strong opinions that might at times oppose yours.  This is when I see families get stuck and I observe both parents and daughters dig their heels in and make a decision to not break from their positions.

This is a critical time to try and move closer to her.  Whether she thinks it or not she needs you more then ever.  It is important that you learn how to get unstuck and keep moving forward with her.

So how can you get unstuck?

There is no perfect answer for this because you are dealing with humans who have their own ideas, beliefs and opinions.   This might be one of the most challenging aspects of raising a teen girl because when she was 6 and had an opinion you most likely were pretty dismissive of it because she was “little” and you knew she didn’t have an idea of what was really going on.  But at 16 she is starting to have a clue and often more of clue then you really want to acknowledge so the approach with her has to be very different.

Consider your approach to managing conflict & problem solving and ask yourself is this working? 

If it’s not then you will have to do different.  Sometimes that means you do a lot of different until you find something that works.

If you are having the same conversation with her over and over then it’s not working and a new approach is necessary.  It’s OK to be creative with this and even include her in the discussion.

Too often parents are afraid to talk with other parents about what is going on.  I hear it all the time in the mom groups that I facilitate.  I can feel the relief when a mom says “me too” or “my daughter does the same thing”.  Talking to others can help with ideas on how to handle some of these complicated situations and personalities.

Include her in the process

One thing teen girls really struggle with is the belief that they do not have a say in how their life is run, yet they really want to be in charge of themselves.  Obviously they are not in a place to run their lives just yet but they should have some say and input.  Problem-solving and conflict resolution is a great place to include her.

I have found that they often understand that they need consequences and discipline (they even want it… I know that sounds crazy but it’s true) and if included in the discussions, will come up with great ideas.

Natural consequences

These are the #1 teacher in the teen years.  You have to let her fall and fail.  Think about it.  Who disciplines you?  You are training her to be an adult.  She must learn how to discipline her self and natural consequences are great teachers.

Do not rescue her and step in unless she is truly in harms way.  Check with others if you have a tendency to hover and control and get advice on this.  You can get unstuck by allowing her to deal with her actions and behaviors naturally.  Sometimes in trying to control it you can contribute to getting stuck instead of letting her ride it out.

Be willing to make the first move

When you get stuck in a problem or situation with your teen daughter it may be up to you to make the first move towards the middle.  You may not have to meet exactly in the middle but if she can see that you are willing to listen to her and move from your position even just the slightest it can cause her to move as well.

I wish there was an easy formula to all of this but my experience is that it is a ton of trial and error and a lot of grace.  It can be very hard, especially with more serious issues.  Always consider what is effective and go back to that thought.  You can be "right" and lose the relationship with her.