Adolescents Want Affection, Not Explanations

Adolescence is a stage where feelings prevail. However, as parents, we tend to use reason when trying to connect with our children, and end up getting nowhere. Adolescents want affection and empathy, and that's the path we need to take in order to establish healthy communication with them.
Adolescents Want Affection, Not Explanations
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Adolescence is characterized as a stage where feelings and emotions are predominant. So, why do we always try to solve their problems with lectures based on reason? Our adolescents want affection, and our long-winded explanations will do nothing to establish healthy communication with our teens.

During this period, parents need to change their approach. During infancy, we give our children orders and rule over them, but our teenagers are no longer having it. We need to change our approach and adapt the way we parent. Of course, we still need to be attentive to the different areas of our children’s lives. But, at the same time, we need to start letting them have more independence and responsibility.

Adolescence is a complicated time, both for parents and children. If we want to maintain healthy communication with our children, we need to make an effort to understand them and show them that we care. Our children want affection, and that’s the most powerful tool we can use in order to connect with them.

Why do adolescents want affection and not explanations?

Many parents try to reason with their adolescent children or impose their own criteria without taking into account their feelings. And, as a result, their children shut down and communication becomes impossible. So what can we do in order to empathize with our teens and show them that we care?

Guiding our adolescents

As parents, it’s crucial that we show our teens that we respect them, but that we need to work together so they don’t waste their lives. First and foremost, adolescents want affection. As parents, we need to demonstrate care and empathy and use them as a doorway in order to talk about and discuss anything. Without a caring and understanding foundation, we’re lost.

Adolescents Want Affection, Not Explanations

Conversation as a basis for trust and closeness

Adolescents and parents don’t need to share all of the same opinions. They come from two different generations and, therefore, see things – the world, love, money, etc. – in a different way. Therefore, we need to be able to discuss these things with our teens without them getting in the way of our emotional bonds.

Remember that this is an uncertain developmental stage for adolescents, and your lectures won’t get them the security they seek. Our teens want affection.

Why do adolescents sometimes respond aggressively?

When adolescents respond aggressively to their mothers or fathers, there’s a reason. This aggression is often stronger in teens who have had better relationships with their parents during childhood. They show aggression because they have a hard time separating from their parents and, if they don’t make this effort, they’ll always be children.

For adolescents, it can be hard to go down the path towards the world of adulthood. They need to start making their own decisions and not always have mom and dad telling them what they should do.

How can we solve this aggression?

If we understand the meaning and the motivation behind our teenager’s aggression, then the violence will decrease. If teenagers say “I hate you”, but you understand why they say it, it still hurts, of course. But you can be understanding and let things go. If you avoid blowing things out of proportion and taking the aggression personally, things will be much easier on you both.

Adolescents want affection: What things shouldn’t parents ever do?

Don’t say things like, “If you don’t want to do what I say, then pack your bags and go”

We should explain to our children that we think they’re making a mistake and that we don’t accept or approve of what they’re doing. But, at the same time, we need to let them know that we’re still there for them no matter what because we love them unconditionally. This will give them the security they need, which is just what they want.

Adolescents Want Affection, Not Explanations

Don’t try to be a perfect mother or father

If you try to be perfect, our teens will just feel alienated. If you allow yourself to be imperfect, your teenage children will be more open to connecting. Remember that adolescents feel insecure around others. Therefore, if you project an image of perfection and strength, your children will feel intimidated and won’t want to talk. Be willing to show your weaknesses, faults, and mistakes. This will help your children feel closer to you.

Don’t pay more attention to your phone or TV than you do to your teens that want affection

Sometimes we’re so focused on our favorite TV programs, social media, or chatting with friends that we don’t pay attention to our kids. On occasion, our children talk to us and we tell them to be quiet because we’re busy with something else. And then we scratch our heads when we find out about the problem they tried talking to us about before.

If parents don’t listen to their teens or understand their changes, it’s unlikely you’ll find out what’s going on with them. It’s true that we’re tired when we get home from work and the last thing we want is conflicts with our children. Conversations easily turn into arguments because we try to use reason and impose our ideas. But we need to remember, our teens want affection, not lectures.

Don’t question for one second whether or not your child needs your time and patience. We’re parents and no one ever said it was going to be easy. But we need to be there for our adolescent children if we want to keep them from having problems during this stage of development.

“Teaching that impacts is not head to head, but heart to heart.”

– Howard Hendricks –


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.