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When it comes to the child to teenage transition, one mental health expert is finding similarities in the temperaments of specific pets.
"Children are like dogs and teens are like cats. Children are quick to engage and play with. They want to talk to us and cooperate with us. We can have fun with them. They show that they like us. On the other hand, teens might seem aloof, keeping their distance from us, emotionally and physically," says Terry Warburton, the Clinical Director at Recovery of Hope Counselling in Winnipeg.
The idea comes from an article that author Adair Lara wrote in the San Fransisco Chronicle.
"When parenting teens, we need the wisdom of a cat owner. We do need to remember though that cats do seek and need warmth and comfort, but we have to work hard at best positioning ourselves to be ready when that happens."
Some of Warburtons clients are parents seeking advice with their child. It's a topic she is very familiar with.
"We need to find ways to be responsive and not reactive to our teens. Find ways to be silly and have fun with them. Expect pushback. If we assume it and expect it, we can communicate to our teens that we are big enough to handle all of who they are," she says.
While it can be a challenge finding ways to be silly when emotions are high, it can defuse a tense situation, according to Warburton.
"Our teens need us to give them lots of room to be grumpy, make mistakes and figure themselves out. Times of transition - like change of school or teacher - can add to the frustration and grumpiness that a teen might be experiencing. When they’re having one of those cat days - acting like they don’t care about anything, acting like they don’t care about us - let’s dig deep and respond from our maturity and grace. Our kid and the relationship will benefit a whole lot from that!"
When anger or frustration are the driving force of a particular conversation, that is not the time to make a definitive point or statement as a parent.
"If we find that we are experiencing a lot of conflict with our kids, we might need to back off of our agendas and focus on connecting, talking about anything, even things that don’t seem to matter. This paves the way for conversations later on that do matter. Sometimes we need to do a lot of talking practice with our kids before our relationship can handle the bigger topics."