As many of you know, here at Motyv, I focus on helping all ages and people with three things...anxiety/depression/anger, relationship struggles, and addictions. It's all about facing your fears and facing yourself no matter what the situation is. It's seriously the coolest thing ever, watching people overcome what they've often long been afraid of.
One of the challenges parents face when bringing their teenagers to me, is that their teen's issues most often exploit marital issues. It's super common for me to not only work with the teen, but also the parents.
I'm going to describe some things I often experience with the teenagers I work with. As a parent, especially if they resonate with you, they can be a bit difficult to swallow. So if you read further, you are not allowed to pity yourself or get mad at me, or shame yourself for being a bad parent. The fact is, if you're reading it, you're not a bad parent. Just try and learn.
So...here are 3 reasons you should look at your marriage if your teenager is struggling.
Number 1: You might be inadvertently depending on your child for your own happiness, which creates a lot of pressure for them.
Obviously, marriage is supposed to be a source of happiness for you, so if it's struggling, it's likely a source of stress and sadness and many other emotions. The stress, loneliness, and sadness are often very obvious to your kids...they do in fact watch us closely.
I've noticed the teenagers, often girls, who are very strong pleasers and desirerers (yes I made that word up) that everything be rainbows and butterflies, will hide much of the emotional turmoil going on inside of them in order to not be a burden to you.
The reasons this is a problem, is they might seek out very powerfully to make you "happy," which can be very tempting to indulge in. I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy your child's relationship, but you need to be very honest with yourself if you are avoiding your marriage in pursuing the relationship with your child. OR...if you are allowing your boundaries to slip with your teen because you're afraid of them rejecting or "not liking" you. Lonely spouses are very susceptible to this and need to be self-aware.
Number 2: If your marriage lacks unity in how both of you parent your kids, your child can single you out according to your individual weakness.
Parenting is so stinking hard. Honestly, it's gotta be one of the hardest jobs ever experienced. It will turn you inside out and force you to look at the things you've probably never wanted to acknowledge or face. At least it should.
That being said, if you and your spouse lack unity, it's likely your very observant, often self-centered, want it my way, even manipulative, yet beautiful teenager will find the path of least resistance. It's what they are hard wired to do. Shoot...we all are...who am I kidding. So if they know you lack courage to enforce a boundary but their dad does have that courage, who they gonna' push...you got it...you. If they know you are strict and enforce the law, they might try and use the emotional distance you have to isolate and hide from you.
The list goes on and on. In other words, you and your spouse need to get on the same page with both how to connect with a child and what boundaries need to be in place that represent the family morals and culture.
Number 3: Your kid won't want to talk to you about your marital problems, leaving them helpless and angry.
This might seem a bit odd, but I've heard this exact phrase from many teenagers..."I don't want to tell my mom I think she and dad are doing bad." So what happens..? The kid is compelled to hid the emotions created by the discord because they are afraid to tell you. It's just something teenagers and kids don't want to talk about. They know the problem exists, but they just don't know what to do about it.
They feel it's a righteous cause to martyr their own emotional needs to keep you less stressed and burdened. Parents then come in to me and say, "she's such a sweet kid...and she is so nice to everyone," and then the kid comes and opens up to me about how much pressure they are feeling to "keep it all together." I ask them why and they say..."I don't want my mom to have to worry about it...she and my dad already struggle enough."
So What? Well I'm not trying to scare you or be all doom and gloom, but ultimately the answer to all these struggles is opening up about it with them. First off, having a conversation with your spouse about the reality of your relationship, but also, inviting your teenager to express themselves about any and all emotions and experiences they are having because of your marriage. And while they talk...you listen...without giving advice.