When your child says “you don’t understand me”, it can be a little unsettling for parents. This happens more with teenagers who are going through a lot with their hormonal swings and it seems like nobody can get across to them. If you are like me, you might even scoff at this comment and say “yeah right, I was never a teenager, I was born 40 years old!” But if your child says it, it could be a call out for many things. It could be a call for attention to academic issues they may be having, social issues with friends or just plain hormonal swings. Whatever it is, here are a few things you can do to handle it:
1. Don’t talk to them: What I mean is, when your child throws this statement at you, it is fairly pointless to sit them down and demand that they tell you what that means. Instead plan on some alone time together with your child- maybe a walk to the ice cream parlour, a walk around the block, anything that your child enjoys doing with you. Get into a comfortable situation where your child is encouraged to share more about his or her life with you. This might get you better results than just badgering them on why they said what they said.
2. Don’t react: As hurtful as it can be to hear your child say that you don’t understand him/her (What!! after all the conscious parenting you have been doing!!!), do not react immediately. It might just be a vent for all the things going on in his/her life and you are the thing that crossed their path at the wrong place at the wrong time. Let them vent.
3. Use Technology : Sometimes it is hard to say things face to face to a person (Breakups through texting being case in point) – so email your child about your concerns and encourage them to share why they feel that you don’t understand them. It might give them the opportunity to open up in a safe way instead of a face to face confrontation.
4. Be Honest: At the end of the day, you want what is best for your child. Ask them “to help you understand them”- Teenagers need to be constantly reassured that they are loved and supported- As much as a ‘no-brainer’ it is for parents, teens have to be told constantly that you are genuinely trying to understand their feelings and needs.
5. Acknowledge their feelings: Tell them you understand how frustrating it can be when it seems like nobody understands them. Don’t tell them you have been there as a teenager- they don’t want to know! Don’t judge them about how trivial their problems are and how much bigger your problems in life are. Everyone just wants to be acknowledged for what they are feeling, even if you cannot offer any fixes to make them feel better. It is kind of like cribbing about your mother-in-law to your husband. You know he can do nothing, but it feels good just to be heard. So hear your child out and validate his feelings and emotions. Empathise and don’t be condescending.
“You don’t understand me” can be the next tough thing to hear from your child after “I hate you”. But we know they don’t know what they are saying and they don’t mean it most of the times. So take a deep breath and figure out genuinely what you can do to help your hurting child feel better.