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Pastoral Counselor/Therapist

Imagine the following situation:

Your son is a teenager and has been writing badly about you in a social media forum (such as Facebook) for quite a while. He has been using foul language and misrepresenting how you treat him. Anger is coming from your 13 year old that you are having a hard time understanding. You wonder why he hates you and feel very hurt by the words he is writing.

Why Is This Happening?

For a moment let's take you out of the middle of what is going on. Parenting is dynamic.

Certainly things are different from the time your child is born (and they are dependent on you for everything) to when they are an adult (and if things are healthy they are independent).

Through it all you remain their parent, although this changes a lot in a couple of short decades.

Testing Limits and Becoming Independent

Your son is now a teenager. What are the important developmental tasks for him to engage in at this age?

It is a time when he begins to be more independent. Teenagers test limits and learn ways of being in the world without all the protections they had as a younger child. It is while doing this that a person has to "rebel" and discover their own ways of interacting in the world.

Fortunately, the values you have provided up to age 11 will remain influential in their life.

Changes in Social Relationships

Another change that happens is that his primary social circle is changing. As a teenager, his friends play an important role in his life. Whereas before he would have come to you first with a problem, it is now normal that he turns first to his friends. In this sense, it is not a reflection on you that he is talking to friends and not you about struggles he is having.

Opening a Dialogue

Now, back to your concern. Does he hate you? What is his real concern? Is it you or things that he is pushing against?

As a parent it can be hard to distinguish between these. To really do this, a parent has to set aside their own ego and enter into dialog without being concerned about what you might hear. Open dialog, to the extent you can, is the key.

Finally, know you are not in this alone.

A good parent does not have to be the center of their child's life. A good parent has to know that their child is safe and is developing into a healthy responsible adult. This is part of constructing and maintaining peace and wholeness in your home.

About the author Christopher Smith:
Details of my broad experience is available on my website. I combine together being an ordained minister (trained at Yale and serving a church part-time in Harlem/Washington Heights currently) with background and credentials in mental health (licensed mental health counselor in New York and Indiana; licensed clinical addiction counselor in Indiana) to work with a client to find the best ways forward as they address their issues and move back to abundant life. throughout, the focus is on where the client is coming from.
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Page last updated May 19, 2013

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