Teenagers need their parents.  They may not say it, and they may often make their parents feel like they really aren’t wanted.  Don’t be fooled: nothing could be further from the truth.  Teens want their parents around them even if they aren’t engaged with each other.  And they need their parents to provide stability in their turbulent lives.

Teens Want Their Parents Around—Even If They Aren’t Talking

Lisa Damour, is author of Untangled:  Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood.  She recently wrote a The New York Times  article entitled What Do Teenagers Want?  Potted Plant Parents.  Intrigued by the title, I read on.  The article discussed a recent study that assessed teens whose parents work far from home for extended periods of time.  Long absences took an emotional and mental toll on some kids.  However, most parents made an effort to stay regularly connected via email, texts and social media.

It turns out though, that absence during some crucial times of the day—after school and through the dinner hour—can be particularly difficult for kids.  Interestingly, proximity-just being in the same place as your kids-is supportive to them.  “In other words,” Damour said, “it’s great if you and your adolescent get along well with each other, but even if you don’t, your uneasy presence is better for your teenager than your physical absence.”  Damour explained further:

That there’s value in simply being around should come as a source of comfort for parents raising adolescents. With younger children, we have plenty of opportunities to put our parenting muscles to work. We can read stories together, make up knock-knock jokes, build towers, or go to the museum. Our youngsters still like to join us for a trip to a grocery store and they usually come to us first with their questions or problems.

But with teenagers, it’s not always easy to know how to connect. By their nature, adolescents aren’t always on board with our plans for making the most of family time and they aren’t always in the mood to chat. Happily, the quality parenting of a teenager may sometimes take the form of blending into the background like a potted plant.

Teenagers Need Their Parents To Be A Stable Force In Their Lives

Kara Powell is Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute and co-author of Sticky Faith and Growing Young.  In a Huffington Post article, she noted that teens often get involved in their own lives and activities and seem to back away from their parents. Nonetheless, parents should still be a present, steady force.

Pushing away from parents is normal as teens start to assert their own independence.  But they may run into problems they can’t handle or disappointments that are hard to face.  That’s when they need to know that parents are right there, a “wall of support.”

Parents Need Their Own Support

For parents, it can be difficult at times to ride the roller coaster of emotions that often accompany the teen years.  Being steady and supportive then being rejected the next day is a challenge.  Powell encourages parents to:

  • Be aware of your own anger and self-protection. I’m most likely to move away from my kids when they tick me off, or when they raise painful (and unresolved) issues in my own life.
  • Watch out for fatigue. While the source of the phrase “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” is unknown (with possibilities ranging from Vince Lombardi to General Patton), it could have been written by a tired parent. Last night at dinner, I wasn’t the parent I wanted to be—not because I lacked skill or knowledge. I simply lacked sleep.
  • Help teenagers have multiple walls—not just you. As a parent, you can’t be the only wall for your child.  Young people need a team of adults who combine to form a fortress of support.

Next time your teen says he or she doesn’t want to be with you, don’t take it too seriously.  It may be true at that moment, but in reality, teens want their parents to be around more often.