From Toddlers to Teens — Craving Connection


Would you be shocked if I told you that teens are craving connection with their parents? Most parents I work with are under the impression that their teens are pushing them away, craving independence and wanting to be left alone. Some of that is true, of course, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It is true that teens want more freedom and enjoy a new level of independence.   They want to be trusted to be alone more often, to take on new responsibilities and to handle certain problems on their own. What is less obvious, however, is how much teens still want and need their parents.


“Kids who need the most love often ask for it in the most unloving ways!”


Think back to when your teen was a toddler. Their emotions and demands were so much easier to read! If they were angry or frustrated, they would cry or throw a tantrum. If they wanted to feel safe and loved, they would crawl into your lap and snuggle. Your teen is giving you the same messages, but the methods have changed. Instead of throwing a tantrum, they might get angry, yell, fight with a sibling, or simply be irrational. They might break rules or act out in reckless ways to get your attention. And when they feel the urge to crawl into your lap for some comfort and support, they worry they are too old for that and look to their friends or their online connections for comfort instead.


Recently at one of my Mother/Daughter Workshops, I asked the girls to reflect on what they would change about their relationship with their mother. More than half of them said, “I wish we could spend more time together.” They cited busy family lives and not enough one-on-one time as some of their greatest frustrations.


The good news is your teen WANTS to spend more time with you! Here are some of the ideas the teen daughters came up with for spending more time connecting with their moms:

Take a walk and talk about our day.

Cook a meal together.

Read the same book together. (And see the movie after.)

Play board games.

Go on a coffee date.

Ask me about the music I like or the books I’m reading.

Go hiking or skiing together.

I also asked the girls about “rules” for these dates. They were pretty simple – no phones, no talking about grades, no siblings 🙂


Your teen wants and needs to feel connected with you. As a parent, you are still the number one influence on their development and their values. Pay attention to the new ways they might be calling out for your attention. And don’t assume that being more independent means they don’t need you anymore. My hope for you and your teen this holiday season is that you find some time to re-connect enjoy each other and strengthen your relationship.

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