“They don’t make their bed. Can you do something about that doc?” Ummm…Did you happen to notice your teen is failing out of school and looks completely depressed? Really, who cares if their bed is made?
Sometimes you’re so overwhelmed by the real problem you pick what seems like a very easy problem to fix like making the bed. The problem is that a depressed teen doesn’t care if their bed is made or not and they’re sitting there watching you scream and yell for what is for all intents and purposes a nonissue.
“Worry” in parenting should be like your 401K, you would only break it out for a very good reason because the penalty is so great. If you use worry over the silliest things then your teen can see that you have no sense of what is an important issue making them question your judgment and parenting. When you hone in on what is real important whether you know how to fix it or not, your teen begins to feel like you really want to know what has caused this change for them. It is a way you tell them you know them well enough to know when something is very different, that you’re paying attention, that you care.
You’re a private eye in your teen’s life and it’s not about catching them doing something wrong no, it’s about knowing when to worry that something isn’t right. “Naaw, that’s not my teen.” This way when you come to them and ask, “What’s up?” and they say, “What? Nothing.” You can reply, “Cut the crap, I just saw you put your underwear in the refrigerator and you failed a quiz you studied for. Look, I’m here for you. What’s going on?”