Research: At some point in our parenting journey we’ve heard about the importance of attachment for healthy child development, typically referring to the bond developed between infant and parent early on that is critical to survival and development. New research builds upon attachment theory into the adolescent phase of development and has important implications for parenting teens. Researchers at Simon Fraser University conclude that “secure attachment [in adolescence] is associated with less engagement in high risk behaviours, fewer mental health problems, and enhanced social skills and coping strategies.” While for infants attachment is largely physical, teens do not require this proximity, but do depend on maintaining “relatedness” with thier parents. While conflict is part of the experience, negotiating the conflict in healthy ways where teens can confidently express their opinions and experience empathy is key. “Adolescents who feel understood by their parents and trust their commitment to the relationship, even in the face of conflict, confidently move toward early adulthood.”
Practice: Summers with our children (of any age) offer us time and space to engage them and develop this bond. For parents of teens, while an idyllic summer of togetherness may not be very realistic, we can revel in moments of connection and practice healthy conflict to encourage their development. It’s not rejection, it’s a developmentally appropriate need for autonomy!