Raising a Teenager Without a Manual

As we wrap up the Live Happy 90 Days to a Happier You challenge, contributing editor Susan Kane writes a final blog about the difficulties of communicating with her teenage daughter.


I feel so fortunate to have had Michelle Gravelle as my coach for the 90-Day Challenge. She is not only wise—she is a warm, compassionate human being who has made a real difference in the lives of her clients. And I hope you the reader have learned something from her wisdom, and from my experience, as well. My last session with her was a little sad because it was hard to say goodbye!

My daughter Coco, with whom I am having difficulty communicating, is a teenager, so of course she still pushes my buttons and tests her boundaries. What’s changed during my coaching with Michele, though, is my attitude toward Coco's behavior. And because that’s different, Coco is different—in a good way. I am able to let go of a lot of what I saw before as rudeness on Coco’s part, or at least to react to it differently. So when she tells me what I’m wearing is ugly, I might just disagree. Or I might just let it go and change the subject.

I won't get "hooked"

Michelle told me to look for times when I get “hooked,” or triggered, and to shift from a negative reaction to something else. “You’ve got to break the pattern,” she said. I’ve learned there are lots of ways to do so.

I also realized, with Michelle’s help, that one of the things Coco did that particularly upset me was related more to old baggage than it was to the present time. Whenever my teen asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, she says “You dodo.” I used to jump all over her: “That’s mean! Take that back! Seriously, honey, apologize!”

Reaction, not overreaction

Growing up, my parents treated me like I had a less-than-stellar intellect because they saw both my other sisters as gifted, so it still upsets me when someone doubts my intelligence. Just stopping to remember that my reaction is an overreaction, and that Coco is only teasing me (albeit in that rude, snotty way teens talk), has helped things stay light between us.

Michelle also taught me to capitalize on those moments when Coco and I really connect. There are two times during the day when she likes to talk to me. One is when we’re driving somewhere in the car. The other is when we’re saying goodnight—and that’s when she truly opens up. It used to make me mad—I saw it as manipulative that just when she “should” have been going to sleep she’d try to delay it by gabbing (I always thought that the optimal amount of zzz’s for her age was important because I myself need a lot of sleep to feel well—but Coco, like her father, simply doesn’t).

I’ve learned to relax then and to talk to her for as long as she wants. As a result, we’ve gotten a lot closer. I know more about her daily life, about what’s going well and what’s bothering her. Yeah, it cuts into both our sleep times, but you know what? My lovebug (yeah, I call her that) is way more important.

Thank you, Michelle.

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