Staying Connected to Your Teen

Mom and teen daughter smiling and laughing together
Image Credit: Unsplash, Baylee Gramling

Your sensitive, spirited (rebellious) teen is irritated with you because you *affirmed* that they made a good decision. You thought they’d feel supported. Wait…what?

Here’s why, plus tips for staying connected.

I was listening to a parent tell a story about their teen recently, and their story reminded me that when your teen is going through a phase of separating from you, wanting to be independent, and asserting their right to make their own decisions–the last thing they want is to think you approve of their decision.

It’s as if they need to feel, deeply within themselves, that their decisions are theirs and theirs alone.

For example, if they tell you they’ve decided to do “xyz” and you say, “I think you’ve made a wise decision”, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an annoyed “who asked you?” look. And if they’re feeling a particularly strong need to show their independence or rebellion, they may even change their mind if they know you approve.

It’s a stark contrast from earlier years when your approval might feel supportive to them.

However, your teen still needs you to “see”, “hear”, and understand them. They also need to stay connected and to know you believe in them. Here’s how to do all that during this phase.

Keep your comments neutral

For example, you could say:

  • “It sounds like you’ve really thought that through and you’re clear about ‘xyz’ being your best decision”, or
  • “I’m glad you’ve got some clarity about what feels right for you”, or
  • “That sounds as if it really fits with [another goal they have in their life]”.

Drop any potential praise or agreement.

If you see a potential problem that you think they may have overlooked, you could ask, with genuine curiosity, “Have you thought through what you’ll do if *abc* happens? Asking with genuine curiosity usually means assuming they may have already thought it through.

If you’re anxious about it or assuming they haven’t thought it through, they’ll almost certainly hear it in your voice and things may fall apart quickly.

The tendency to push back at parents like this is very strong around age 15, and if you’re interested in the astrological explanation for that, check out this video interview with astrologer Diana Cary.

If your teen is asking your opinion, that’s a different situation–but it’s also a rare occurrence when they’re in that separation phase!

Essentially, your teen still needs to feel seen heard and understood, but they probably don’t want to hear that you agree with them!

Does this land for you? I’m curious–let me know. 😊

This article was previously published on Colleen Adrian’s blog:



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Colleen Adrian

Colleen Adrian

Coach for parents of sensitive kids - build a strong connected relationship and leave behind authoritarian methods that break your bond.