As your child gets older you may have started noticing they go "me", "me", "me"! You may have found that they are hyper-focused on themselves and seem to think that everyone is looking at and judging them. They may spend hours getting ready or be unwilling to do certain activities for the fear of how they will be perceived.
You may have tried to connect with your child by explaining that the world does not revolve around them and they also need to consider how their behaviour affects the people around them. Sometimes these little conversations might turn into arguments and cause tension between you and your child.
If you've found yourself thinking “kids and teens are just so self-centered” well you are not alone! But experts do have an explanation for why your child is acting this way. It has everything to do with the way your child's brain is developing! Scientists call this stage of brain development "adolescent egocentrism.” It means that your child's brain is currently having a difficult time separating their own ideas and perceptions from others. That means that they really do feel like everyone is watching or judging them.
This leaves room for you to change the way you interact with your child now that you know that it is a natural part of development. It can help for you to reflect on how you felt in those years and meet your child with some much-needed empathy. This will do wonders for your relationship with your child over the years.
Here are 3 ways you can connect with your child emotionally - This works for all ages!
Loving without condition
Every parent loves their child and would do anything for them. It's important that your child knows this too. Be conscious of what you say to your child especially when they do not meet your expectations. Tieing love/attention to how your child performs, behaves, or the choices send the message that your love must be earned.
No one is perfect, your child and their developing brain are no exception. This means they will have bad days, make mistakes, get into arguments, and misbehave. We're not saying to ignore straight-up abuse but be conscious that your child knows that you are committed to loving them for whoever they are.
2. Your child will fail, how do you lift them up?
There will be times where your child will fail a really big test, or not make the cut on their school sports team. It is crucial that you understand the impact you have on your child's self-esteem in these moments. If you criticise, are frustrated, or seem indifferent you send the message that your child is just not good enough. It can leave them feeling hopeless.
Instead, it is best to address it by having a simple conversation with your child. You can ask questions that reflect the situation and say things like
I know how hard you worked on that, what do you think you could have done differently?
When did you feel like it was getting difficult?
What is one thing you learned from this?
Questions like this are empowering because your child has the opportunity to review what has happened, take accountability for their actions and this becomes a learning experience rather than a negative one. They also have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with you by opening about how they felt and having a great sounding board to overcome challenges in the future.
3. Praise correctly!
When your child does something fantastic it is very natural for you to want to celebrate them, their achievements. You might find yourself bringing it up when grandparents and friends come around. While these things can make your child feel really good this can cause them to feel that they only have value if they do something great.
They may end up developing anxiety when they don't live up to their previous personal best or milestones. It's important that instead of celebrating the outcomes, focus on all the steps they took to achieve their awards. This builds the connection between effort and outcome and builds confidence, perseverance, and self-starting qualities in your child.