The children who hid behind us in public now take desperate measures to avoid being spotted with us at all. What happened? Many parents struggle to hold tightly to the relationship they had with their kids before they became teenagers. Follow these 3 easy steps to better relate to your teen.
An easy way to stay connected to your child is by implementing an opportunity to bond. You can plan a game night, a trip to the movies, or an outing that revolves around your teen’s favorite interest. If you want emphasize conversation, try a shared dinner or a walk through the neighborhood instead. These routines can be weekly, or even nightly. Set ground rules. If you want your child’s undivided attention, try a “no phones” rule. If being uplifting is a priority, try a “no negativity” rule. Your bonding time should be personalized to meet the needs of your relationship with your teen.
Creating a ritual of quality time will lay the groundwork for a solid, lasting connection. Teens need to know that no matter how challenging growing up becomes, they will always have opportunities to talk to their parents and spend time with people who love them. A lot of change is happening and it can be difficult to work through. Having at least one element that is constant, and reliable can be a safe place in the midst of all the change. Keep in mind that sometimes teens will want to skip a week or may not be up to socializing. In that case, be flexible and supportive, but always reschedule as soon as possible so the ritual of quality time doesn’t fall by the wayside.
Take Interest in Their Interests
The teenage years mark the beginning of experimentation. At this age, kids start wearing different clothes, making new friends, attempting new hobbies, and listening to new music. Teenagers are desperately trying to figure out where they fit in and who they want to be. We’ve all been there. While we were busy “finding ourselves”, our parents watched from the sidelines and expressed their concerns! Most didn’t understand our need to suddenly be different. Some parents did understand, but still vocalized their disapproval. In both cases, we felt judged and started to pull away. But now that you are a parent, you can change the narrative. Break the cycle! You have a chance to do things differently. Embrace the new parts of your teen’s life. Be open to your children’s changing interests and let them know that it’s okay to keep you in the loop. Remember that no one wants to share their opinions with someone who is going to be critical, instead of celebratory. So, however “out there” their new interests may be, do your best to happily join in. Doing so will help you bring you closer together, instead of further apart.
Change Your Perspective
In the eyes of a parent, teens can come off as moody, ungrateful, or dramatic. This portrayal causes division in the family because teens don’t think of themselves in that light. The issue lies in perspective. As adults, we tend to view our life problems as more serious than our children’s. We have bills to pay, marriages to maintain, and careers to manage. When we hear our teens complain about life being unfair, it’s difficult to assign the same weight to their complaints. While teenagers know their issues are different than an adult’s, they don’t think of their problems as any less stressful. When we minimize their stresses, they feel misunderstood and go elsewhere to seek the validation we withheld. This problem can be solved with a change of perspective. The next time you are tempted to be dismissive, step back and try to empathize. Remind yourself that stress is relative, perspective is adaptable, and support goes a long way.
Being a teenager is tough. So is being the parent of one. Your importance in your child’s life hasn’t changed, but how you connect with him/her will. As teens struggle to become more independent, they will you’re your guidance and love to make the journey a bit easier. Stay united by offering support and understanding and your bond will last the test of time.