We adopted teenagers with really good intentions. With training in connected parenting and lots of years mentoring teens, we thought we were well-prepared. Are you chuckling at our ignorance yet?
Suffice it to say that 3 years after coming home, our house was a train wreck. Our kids couldn’t wait to be 18 and leave forever. So much for wanting a family, right?
In hindsight, I can’t blame them. I wanted them to be successful and accept love so much that it hurt. I was convinced that I could force them to see (using connection, of course) that the advice we were offering was the “right” way to do life. I also wanted to protect them from the countless mistakes and false paradigms that I was observing that were certainly going to roadblock their ways to success. I wanted them to think more…or just think like me.
“How did you meet that person? Do you know anything about him? Is he a wise friend choice?”
“You’re going to spend your money on that?!?!!? I thought you were saving up to move out?!?”
“Do you expect to get a job if you don’t work on your English?”
“How can you still not know what our zipcode is? Your application. You figure it out.”
“Did you really just submit that application with zero capitalization or punctuation? <slaps forehead>”
Not to mention we were trying to “teach” them emotional intelligence in between the interrogations so they could face their trauma and heal (which I was convinced was the key to why it was taking them to so long to learn the basics like capitalization and punctuation…they were just distracted by their trauma, right?) Banner connected parenting, right? Wrong.
While I still firmly believe that our teens’ emotional state and where they stand with their pasts contributes to how functional they are, clearly our way of relating to them was not working.
Once our son had moved out, our therapist sat me down and challenged me to a month of just listening to him and not reacting with anything more than a, “Thanks for sharing.”
Our first phone conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey! What ya up to?
Him: Washing my new shoes?
What I wanted to say: New shoes? How did you get those? With whose money? Why the h*ll are you washing new shoes? In the sink? In the washing machine?
What I said: Hm. That’s fun. New shoes. What kind?
Him: Air Jordans
What I wanted to say: You’re washing a $200 pair of new shoes?!? Did you know that could ruin them?
What I said: Cool. Anything else new?
I only have half a tongue left after that month, but my relationship with our son started to magically repair itself. He started sharing his heart voluntarily, and you know what? I earned the right to start asking questions again! I’m waaay more judicious this time around, and, while it’s still painful watching him figure out life, I know he needs to. I’m also confident that if he ever gets in a real pinch, he will feel safe enough in our relationship to come to us for help. That’s the most significant win in my opinion. On our previous path, I think that even stuck between a rock and hard place, he would’ve avoided us like the plague because the fear of condemnation and shame from us (not unfounded at that time) was too great.
How are you doing with your teens?