Psychotherapist Helps Parents and Teens Stay Connected

Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Is your family in the typical struggle of bridging the gap between parents and teens? Well, you have come to the right place. No matter whether you are the adult or the teenager, you will want to meet Carleton Kendrick. A man with a realistic perspective of today's youth, their challenges, and ways their family can help. As both a parent and a licensed psychotherapist, he has discovered an honest way to relate to both sides of the struggle, bridging the gap that often develops with the budding independence of youth.

About Carleton Kendrick

Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW is a Harvard graduate, licensed psychotherapist, and author of the book Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's: Hanging In, Holding On and Letting Go of Your Teen (Unlimited Publishing LLC). His expert advice, bridging the gap across generations, has been found on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox Television, CNN, National Public Radio, along with the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and many more national and international media and publications. He has also been the resident family therapist for Familyeducation.com, where he answered over 3000 questions from both parents and teenagers looking for guidance.

With over 30 years in the business of providing support for families, it is no surprise Robin Raskin of FamilyPC Enterprises, named Carleton the "best Internet expert on parenting teens" in the August 2001 issue.

How Parents Stay Connected with Their Teens

When Carleton speaks to groups of parents and teens, he offers them critical advice on "how to stay connected." It is an important concept at the age when the teenagers begin to test their independence, as these are also the times when it is even more important to stay connected and rooted as a family.

In the words of Carleton, being a teen is like "walking around with a spotlight on you." It is a time when teenagers need the loving arms of their parents, but they may not realize how to reach out.

Tips for Parents and Teens

LoveToKnow (LTK): What can parents do to stay connected with their teens?

Carleton Kendrick (CK): Often parents have to do the speaking for both. Sometimes you don't get the response or actions you want, but you still need to talk and be encouraging. You need to show interest in your teenager's life. In my experience, I hear kids often saying, 'I don't really need my parents to be my buddies. I just need them to be truly interested in things in my life.' Parents need to build and continue to maintain a foundation all along. Don't parade it out just when problems arise. It is always easier for parents to make the first steps, because they are not in the torment that teens are

Parents can do this by playing an active role. It is about the details, like every relationship. Everyone feels valued when they think others are listening and paying attention to their lives. Even though teenagers can be defiant, they can also be joyful and warm. Parents have to be the rock they cling to, even though they don't want to cling.

Parents can learn a lot about their kids by just knowing them. Look at their gestures and body language, their tone; it's like paying attention to the fine brush strokes in a painting. If you pay attention to that, you can really pick up on a lot of the things your kids really need from you.

It is also important to remember your own adolescence. There are universals that we can retain from those years.

LTK: What can teens do to stay connected?

CK: The direct approach is always best, but it can be very hard to ask for what you need from your parents when you are a teenager. Sometimes dropping some hints is a lot easier for a teen then sitting down and having the talk about what you need. I also would advise at times for teens to write their parents. That sometimes can be a lot easier than sitting across from your parent and feeling like you are shrinking into a younger kid. The letter allows them to express themselves without being interrupted or misinterpreted. Teens can work at it, and rework it, and then when they have it how they want it to look, hand it to their parents. Even tell them they can look at it later.

Theft of Childhood

LTK: What is the biggest generational change teens deal with today?

CK: It is what I call the theft of childhood. Over-anxious, frightened, guilty parents are helicopter parenting and micromanaging their kids' lives. It is the anxiety that kids really feel if they don't perform. Kids feel if they don't have everything they need in their "portfolio" by mid Junior year that means they won't be able to get into a great college. Then that means they won't be able to have the job and the life that they "should" have. So, there is a lot of pressure in the middle class that kids are placed on a fast track to have to do more and more, and be perfect.

Kids have much less of what I would call a natural childhood. Accompanying that is the technological explosion allowing and encouraging them to escape more into their loneliness into virtual worlds. So, a huge difference among teenagers now vs. 20 years ago is the complete loss of desire to be outside, in the air, on the land, under the sky.

It is the speeding up of childhood. It has been lost to them, but it truly has been stolen.

LTK: What are the solutions?

CK: Take the pressure off. That has to come from a cooperative effort. This is not something that can be declared all of a sudden and still have a lot of genuine meaning behind it. You really have to live it. If you are a multitasking parent who can't hang it up when you come home from work, if parents are hyper-scheduled, it is very hard to be in the home life and find peace.

Even the volunteering world. It should be done joyously, not to beef up a profile or resume. Doing good deeds should be something you learn from your family as a way of living, not something you do for a couple of months so you can put it on an application.

We complain about teenagers who are needy, self-indulgent, and materialistic - where do we think they are getting this from?

More from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Show Teens They Are Valued

According to Carleton, parents can start connecting by complimenting kids on just the little things and making these comments real.

"You don't need to quote a Hallmark card," he says. "It is simply noticing."

Staying connected is something you do on a day-to-day basis. Show teens they are valued, and you will be bridging the gap.

Psychotherapist Helps Parents and Teens Stay Connected