Connecting With Teens Starts When They Are Infants


Published:

Photo courtesy of OLJ Studio/Shutterstock

In March, Dr. Michelle Deering shared a guest blog, which outlined strategies for connecting with your teen. Here's part three of that series.

***

For those of you who are parents of infants, you may be wondering, “What do any of the ‘parenting teens’ pointers have to do with me?” Well, I am glad that you are wondering about those things because much of what you do during infancy lays a foundation for later dynamics during the teen years.

Infants are dependent on their caregivers to provide them with (physical and emotional) nourishment and a sense of safety. Infants need their caregivers to be attuned to their bodily needs and “mirror” (reflect) back to them their emotional and facial responses – “putting words” and “tone” to it all. This helps them learn to understand themselves and the “world” outside of themselves. For example, imagine you are at the park with your infant who is on his back in the stroller and staring up at the sky. He's smiling, the birds are chirping, and you are either quietly walking or talking to him about all the things he may be observing. The wind blows and a piece of pine cone unexpectedly falls in the stroller right next to him. Suddenly, his countenance shifts to that of "horror," and he begins to cry. The crying has interrupted (“ruined?”) what may have seemed to you to be a picture perfect outing. Or, if the outing was done in a rush or was an attempt to have him be in a different setting to have him calm down from being in the house all day, then you may have interpreted the crying as a “failure.” So, it is understandable if you try to immediately smooth over the crying turmoil with placating words like “It’s OK” or “It’s alright.”

However, from your son’s perspective, “something” unknown to him – from the “world” outside of himself has invaded his world (his immediate personal space) – and his crying his is only vocabulary for communicating with you. From his perspective, things are not OK or alight. So, a parental response of “It’s OK.” or “It’s alright” actually unintentionally negates your son’s experience and emotional response and offers him no education about himself, his feelings, the world around him, or what language to use to express himself to you (not then and there as an infant but, if the pattern continues, later on ... as a teen).

While this scenario is only one of a myriad of situations parents have with their infants, it is offered as an example of where there may be opportunities to connect with your infant differently. It is important to connect with your infant in a way that is intentional and keeps the bigger picture in mind – that your infant is growing up and that you are preparing him for future encounters with things that are unexpected in life. So, with that in mind, in the above scenario you could stoop down to his eyesight level and in a soothing melodic voice (if you're female) or empathic but strong assuring voice (if you’re male) say something like, "Oh my, are you startled? ... did that scare you? I know, I know," followed by reassuring words that he is safe where he is with you. Again, with infants, it's about empathizing with them from their perspective, mirroring/reflecting back to them what you are seeing them express, and then giving them words for those feelings. This helps your (growing) infant make sense of all the new experiences that he/she is having.

The process of “mirroring” to an infant is the precursor to the “stopping and observing” of your family’s flow and your teen’s flow in it which I have mentioned in a prior guest blog. Mirroring involves being present in the moment and noticing what is going on with your child. When you’ve done this and attempted to understand from his/her perspective can you then really listen from the heart and respond in a “reflective” way in which they will feel heard and understood.


Dr. Michelle Deering, Ed.D., is a North Carolina-licensed clinical psychologist (LP, HSP-P), nationally board certified sport psychologist and professional speaker. She is founder and CEO of Curative Connections LLC, a premier consulting firm in Apex that provides keynote addresses, tailored consultation and sport psychology services to organizations, teams and athletes. She specializes in life transitions (middle school to high school to college and beyond), trauma, sport injury recovery and peak performance issues; and she gives inspirational keynote addresses on life strategies that connect people to their personal and professional goals. For more information, visit CurativeConnections.com.

Photo by Nancy Jo Photograph

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Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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