Becoming a Potted Plant Parent
Ways to Stay Close as She Grows
-becoming a “potted plant parent”-
If you have a 9-year old or younger girl in your life, it’s pretty easy to connect with her. She thinks your funny & laughs at your jokes. She loves to play games with you. She generally enjoys just being with you.
Things start to change between 10 and 12. Suddenly, there seems to be a door between the two of you as she retreats in her room, and the change is quite disorienting.
Last week, I posted 20 ways to connect with a tween girl. This is a list of ideas I selfishly wanted to create for myself because I’m right there and need this. As my youngest hits 10.5, I’m seeing whiffs of her starting to push away.
For those of you with teens, I picked up some advice from the amazing “teen girl whisperer,” Lisa Damour, PhD, psychologist and author of Untangled and Under Pressure. Damour was recently interviewed on Rich Roll’s podcast and gave such sound information and reassurance to us parents. Here are a few things she said:
When “how was your day?” falls flat
Parents need to understand that school is really exhausting. Imagine consecutive 45-minute meetings with 20-30 people with few breaks. This is why a curt “fine” is the typical response to a cheerful query about the day.
When they are ready to talk, be available
Since most teens aren’t ready to connect when they get home from school, it’s often later before bedtime when they want to talk. Often when you are busy checking email, cleaning, etc.
They want us there
“Like a potted plant” as Damour calls it. She says that teens will often complain that their parents are not around. Just being home and available provides more connection than parents realize. “Our physical presence and availability, for them, is really important even if they do not outwardly acknowledge it,” said Damour. But they may not want to talk to you and be asked a lot of questions.
Agenda-less time together
Just hanging out without having an agenda or asking questions helps to connect with a teen girl. Fold laundry next to her while she watches TV.
If you are not there / travel a lot
You can still connect with a teen girl by texting or talking on the phone with her. Show interest in what she loves. Watch the same show / read the same book and text about it. If she is into baby animals, send her photos that you find.
At the conclusion of the podcast, Damour boiled down all of the parenting advice to this: “If you are warm with your kids and you have structure, the rest will sort itself out.”
The Rich Roll Podcast: Lisa Damour, PhD On Parenting Teens Under Pressure, April 29, 2019
“What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents.” The Washington Post, Lisa Damour, PhD.
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