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Teen Parent Relationships
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Teen-Parent Relationships

 Q: I know it is to be expected that a teenager will spend more time with friends than family. However, it seems our daughter is not interested in being with us at all. She is 18, and up until last year we all seemed to enjoy each other’s company and always found time for each other. Now the little time we do have together is spent on chore assignments, money exchanges and brief conversations. Is this the way it is? Am I just expecting too much? The fact is we are all very busy people and there are not enough hours in the day.

A: The last part of your question, when you described the way you are spending time with your daughter, may be a key here. It is human nature to be drawn toward pleasure and pull away from pain.

You might reflect back over the events of this past year and identify when you and your daughter started to enjoy each other’s company less.

1.      What was happening at the time?

2.      Was there an increase in conflicts and arguments when you two got together? If so, who was arguing or complaining?

3.      What was going on between you and your husband at that time? Sometimes if parents are in conflict, children hear it or sense it and want to avoid the tension.

You mentioned that the time you are spending together now is brief and fairly unsatisfying. This may be the place to start. Consider planning pleasurable time with your daughter and put the chore assignments and money exchange issues aside.

What kind of activities have the two of you enjoyed in the past? Draw on those past positive experiences and suggest getting together for these activities. Ask for her preference. This can be a way to reverse the downward spiral. (If you and your daughter have not had much positive contact for several years then this approach probably would not work.)

You may find after renewing the fun and pleasure in being with each other for shared activities that finding time with each other becomes easier. This same approach may be equally successful between your husband and daughter, depending on the history of their relationship.

It is easy to fall into the habit of getting busy and shortening exchanges with our children to brief questions, answers, and assignments. Unfortunately, if these brief “custodial contracts” are not balanced with relaxed time to enjoy each other’s company, relationships tend to get fairly distant, boring, and unrewarding.

Any good relationship requires an investment of time and energy. Often, there is an expectation that our family members will understand and love us no matter what. They may love us, but prefer to spend time with those who have more to offer. Fortunately, it sounds like, you and your husband and your daughter have had a history of enjoying each other’s company, which will probably make it easier to get back on track and open up communication and enjoyment.