Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MCFARLAND: Putting yourself in their shoes

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 8/6/2014

All healthy relationships require one to have the ability to look at another’s point of view or perspective. This applies to your relationship with your teen as well. Most parenting challenges can be viewed from multiple perspectives. One of the most significant points of view belongs to our children. Whether we agree or not, it’s important that we try to understand where our kids are coming from. By putting ourselves in their shoes, we can gain insight into the reasons for their behavior and the feelings that motivate it.

The decisions we make regarding our children and ourselves, are not made in a vacuum. Subsequently, expanding our perspective also involves thinking about how others might be affected. This principle not only applies to our children, but should apply to adults in the family. Although it can be difficult to consider our partner or ex-partner’s perspective when we disagree, it’s important to work together to find a compromise that is in the child’s best interest, not necessarily our own.

All healthy relationships require one to have the ability to look at another’s point of view or perspective. This applies to your relationship with your teen as well. Most parenting challenges can be viewed from multiple perspectives. One of the most significant points of view belongs to our children. Whether we agree or not, it’s important that we try to understand where our kids are coming from. By putting ourselves in their shoes, we can gain insight into the reasons for their behavior and the feelings that motivate it.

The decisions we make regarding our children and ourselves, are not made in a vacuum. Subsequently, expanding our perspective also involves thinking about how others might be affected. This principle not only applies to our children, but should apply to adults in the family. Although it can be difficult to consider our partner or ex-partner’s perspective when we disagree, it’s important to work together to find a compromise that is in the child’s best interest, not necessarily our own.

As a parent of a teen, our perspective can be challenging when our teen’s perspective doesn’t always make sense or feel right to us. But considering our teen’s point of view also involves thinking about our teen’s behavior and motives, in the context of their age and the many changes they are experiencing. Learning about and having an understanding of teen development and what is normal is critical in having a healthy relationship with your teen.

Understanding the perspective of others can be especially difficult when we are emotionally involved or upset. Our strong feelings seem to narrow our field of vision and can make it difficult for us to see beyond our point of view. Our emotional blinders can also lead us to “make a mountain out of a molehill.”

When we understand our child’s viewpoint, abilities and limitations, it is easier to find common ground and develop solutions where parents and teens can agree. Taking into account their points of view also shows our children that we really do love and care about them, which usually results in them being less defensive and more open to what we have to say.

Here are some suggestions that can help to expand our perspective and see “the bigger picture.”

• Listen to your teen with patience and understanding. Try to understand their viewpoints and why they see things as they do. You don’t need to agree with them, but by trying to understand their points of view, you put yourself in a better position to find common ground.

• Seek out the impartial view of others. A parent’s emotional involvement can sometimes make it difficult to be objective and see your teen’s perspective. Seek out the counsel of others for clarity.

• Don’t take things personally. It’s difficult to do, but learning about adolescent development will help you have a better understanding of the reasons behind your teen’s behavior. Assume that annoying or obnoxious teen behavior is not personally directed at you, even if it feels that way.

• Don’t sweat the small stuff; put things in perspective. Remember that even the most bothersome and irritating teen behavior typically is short-lived. Most teens eventually grow out of it and become responsible and pleasant adults.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and child development extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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