“I know you better than you know yourself, honey. If you would just listen to me, this stuff wouldn’t happen.”
You will never know what your child is thinking or feeling because you’re not them. I know you love your teen and you want the very best for them. And it’s really hard to watch them struggle.
Here’s the thing. When you constantly tell them that you know them better than they know themselves, they’ll grow up questioning every thought and every feeling they have, which builds anxiety and a whole lot of other things they’re going to have to undo.
Yes, you have more perspective. Yes, you might understand the consequences better. And if they’d just listen, things might not go as badly. But this is their journey and they just need you to love them on it unconditionally, not undermine them by telling them that you know what they’re thinking or feeling because you don’t, and you never will.
When you overstep empathy, you invalidate.
You’re probably aiming for empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, and accidentally stepped into gaslighting -manipulating someone to question their own sanity. Being relatable really helps your teen to know you understand the crappy feelings of failing, emotional pain, guilt, sadness, etc. as long as you don’t cross the line to being all-knowing.
It’s like interrupting someone in the middle of a very vulnerable sharing and saying, “Ya, ya, I know! I’ve been there”. It’s incredibly invalidating and hurtful and creates disconnection because it lowers safety.
Even if your paths are similar, they’re not the same.
This is their journey, and they need space to figure it out (even if you see it coming a mile away). They need your love and support to listen and encourage them even when they get it wrong. They want to know you’re a safe person to share with and sort out their thoughts and feelings without being told which ones are right or wrong.
When your teen shares something with you and you’re unsure of the line to build trust, safety, and connection, remember these:
- Relating – to make or show a connection, to identify with
- Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
- Gas Lighting – manipulating someone to question their own sanity
The minute you think you know any more than what your teen is telling you, you’ve overstepped. You don’t know because you’re not them. Ask gentle and curious questions if it feels right, otherwise, your greatest gift is simply to listen and love them.
If your relationship with your teen feels strained and you’re trying everything you know how to, I’m here to help. The gap between you two doesn’t need to solidify or grow this year, creating more stress and pain. My Empowered Parent Mastermind starts January 19th and covers topics like this to help you improve communication, build trust, and connection so you sleep better at night.