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Family Therapy – How To Create A Stronger Family
After providing family therapy for almost two decades now, I have learned a lot from parents and their children. Some families seem to figure out what it takes to be healthy and strong, while others struggle. I want to share two principles with you about how to make your family stronger. This is based on my practice-based experience as a marriage and family therapist over the years, counseling families in Utah County.
Parents – Learn To Parent Your Children Differently As They Grow
First, let’s talk about what you can do as a parent. There aren’t many people you love more in life than your children. From the moment they were born until now, your love for them grows and grows. Even when they make mistakes and cause you heartache. However, certain parenting practices will counter the love you have for your children.
One of the most common mistakes I see as a therapist is when parents parent their 16 year old (insert any adolescent age) children as if they were still 6 (insert any young child age). When you, as a parent, don’t change your parenting style over the years it can hurt your relationship with your child (Related Article: Empower and Validate Your Adolescent Child).
For example, you might tell your 16 year old when they come home an hour after curfew, “I cant believe you! I’m not letting you go out with your friends if you can’t keep your commitment to come home on time.” When your child tries to talk to you about why they are late you say, “I don’t want to hear it. You’re not going out with them again.”
The problem here is that you are making all the decisions for your 16 year old and not letting them be a part of the process. Because of this they don’t have a voice. Teenagers need to be a part of the process of working things out, talking through their ideas and having more of a say.
One solution is to give your teenager more room and responsibility. You can do this through listening to their side more, asking them questions that help them reflect instead of dictating and dismissing them. Say to them, ‘Help me understand why you are late tonight?’ or ‘I wonder what you could have done differently.’
Teenagers – Learn To Become An Individual And Still Be Part Of A Group
Second, let’s talk about what your child is going through. As they grow and mature, they are trying to figure out who they are, what they believe and what they want to do. Up to this point, they have largely adopted what you believe and how you are. Now they are realizing that they can be different.
For most teenagers, they try to become their own person by simply adopting behavior or a lifestyle that is in opposition to you (or church or school). For example, if you choose heads, they choose tails. Even if they don’t believe in what they are doing, they do believe that it makes them independent, or their own person. This is false, however. Naturally, this can be a confusing time for them and for you. Here is something to consider as you work with them.
One of the main tasks of teenagers is to figure out how to become an individual while still being a part of a group. Even though this can seem like trying to mix oil and water to them, it is possible. Something you can do to help is to allow for differences of opinion, thoughts or methods. Try giving them space to be the way they want to be within the groups you are naturally in together. For example, don’t tell them to put shoes on instead of sandals as you go to church together. Try instead telling them you like their new style. If not, then they might reject the group altogether.
Come meet a counselor for family therapy. You can learn how to apply principles like the ones discussed here.
Schedule a family therapy session at one of our counseling centers – South Jordan, Orem, Spanish Fork and American Fork.
Written by Triston Morgan, PhD