Parenting Teens: Living with Multiple Personalities

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My kids are now well into their teen years. My daughter turned 15 in August, and my son is 16. It’s no secret this can be tough territory to navigate, both for them, and for me and my husband.They are good kids, but this year we have really struggled to connect with them.

 

SOMETHING’S NOT RIGHT

Trouble started around this time last year, when we noticed our daughter spending more and more time alone. On vacation this summer, we noticed she was withdrawing more than she was engaging. She also seemed to be spending less time with friends.

Meanwhile, our son started rejecting school and holiday traditions, like holiday parties and trick-or-treating, at age 10. We were trick-or-treating that year, and right around the 3rd house, he announced he was going home, because he didn’t feel right going door-to-door and “begging for food.”

For these behaviors and others, my husband and I had this nagging feeling: Is this what teenagers do, or are these signs of bigger problems?

 

TRIAL AND ERROR

My husband and I have been using a variety of methods to get our daughter to engage with us more. We have planned special date nights for him and her, and restricted her phone access, among other things. These tactics have worked in the moment, but have had no lasting effect.

We have been encouraging our son to get more involved in school, to go to the football games, to go to the dances, to hang out more with his friends (in person, not just online). He will do these things to please us, but he doesn’t get any enjoyment from them.

Our kids are good kids, they do well in school, they aren’t in trouble or hanging out with the wrong kids. But I have been at my wits end trying to connect with them this year. I’m constantly asking myself: Is this NORMAL?

On more than one occasion, our interactions (or lack thereof) left me wildly emotional, almost irrational. I was feeling increasing stress and anxiety as I watched the calendar fly by. I knew my opportunities to have meaningful connections with them before they graduate high school and go out on their own were dwindling.


SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS

We had to do something, as I was really struggling to cope with the way things were. My husband and I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas to improve the dynamics in our home. We even considering counseling.

Last weekend I was desperate to find a solution, so I turned to Google. I searched, “How to live with introverts.” I knew that my husband and kids are introverts, and I am an extrovert. I suspected this was the reason I was feeling shut out of my kids’ lives.

I stumbled on the Myers-Briggs personality test. I took it, read my analysis, and my eyes were opened. I asked my husband and kids to take the test also. They did. Reading the analysis was like getting an instruction manual for them.

Turns out, we were all just being ourselves!!

It was a relief to see that my kids don’t hate me, or our family, or their lives. They are actually quite happy, well-adjusted, and comfortable in their skin. They just see the world differently than we do, and that’s okay.

 

HOPE FOR A NEW BEGINNING

Having this “instruction manual” for my family doesn’t necessarily solve all our problems, and it doesn’t mean our relationships are now easy.

It means we have tools to understand what motivates each of us to do and say what we do and say. It means my husband and I can work on helping our kids be the best versions of themselves, instead of trying to figure out how to mold them into who we think they should be.

Yay, us!

 

GET TO KNOW YOURSELF

There are several websites and companies that offer the Myers-Briggs personality test. We used 16 Personalities and Truity for our testing and analysis. We have all enjoyed getting to know ourselves better, and finding out how each of us sees and responds to the world differently.

This test is common in the corporate world, but I encourage you to use it in your family as well. Please let me know if you try it! I would love to know how this helps you and your family!