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Yes, the teenage years are collectively a cringe-worthy and uniquely challenging time for many parents. How vividly do you remember the chaos and stress that you bestowed upon your own parents many years ago? It is a point in your child’s life that can be fulfilling, as they are developing their own interests, trying new hobbies, making new friends, and slowly learning how to become an adult. However, it is also a point when the paradigm shifts and your child will want to become more independent and try to make their own decisions. They will ask for more freedoms, your car keys, if they can spend more time with friends, and about dating, which means, uh-oh, sexual activity. Teenagers, as we all remember so well, are also newly exposed to a plethora of different stressors from school and their peers and there are many biological changes occurring within their bodies that they do not understand, which can result in them being temperamental. The important thing to remember during this time is that you should connect with your child before you correct them because they need you. The teenage years are critical molding years and connecting with them is vital, as it will make these turbulent times easier for you both. Below are some pieces of advice on how to connect with your teen.
- Keep an Open Door Policy – As mentioned above, once a child becomes a teenager and enters high school, they are exposed to a monumental amount of new stressors: grades, preparing for college, bullies, rejection, rumors, working, peer pressure; the list goes on and on. Your child may not fully understand how to deal with many of these issues, so it is important that you, the parent, be an open source of guidance and comfort that they can come to when they need help or someone to talk to. This will help you and your teen develop a healthy, trustworthy, and open relationship and stronger emotional bond.
- Show Them Love – Despite the fact that many teenagers think they are “cool”, grown up, and independent, they still want love and affection. You can easily display this to your teen by regularly saying “I love you,” giving them hugs and kisses, surprising them with their favorite snack or breakfast, greeting them when they come home, and saying “goodbye” when they leave. Simple gestures will show them how much you care about them and are always appreciated.
- Take an Interest in Their Interests – Even you may not like the kinds of activities that your teen does, it is important to support your child’s interests and get involved with them. If your child is into sports, you can offer to play with them outside or watch a game together. Do they like art? You can take some time to paint with them or even take a pottery course together. This will be a perfect way to strengthen your emotional bond and spend time together. Hey, you may also develop some new interests of your own.
- Talk to Them – This one is simple and straightforward. Ask how their day at school was, how they are feeling, do they need help with anything, how their friends are doing, etc. A good way to keep this consistent is to have dinner as a family every night. That will always serve as an ample opportunity to talk with your teen about their day or anything else. On days that you are both super busy, still try to converse with them, whether it be during a car ride or even on the phone. This is a great way to connect on a daily basis and show that you have an interest in their lives.
- Develop Rituals – Taking part in traditions as a family can be a great way to have fun, create lasting memories, and bond. Rituals can involve biweekly trips to see a new movie, dining out at your favorite restaurant on the weekends, taking them shopping when they receive good grades, going on a yearly vacation together, and anything unique that your family can think of and that everyone enjoys. Pick something unique and remember to stick with it.
- Do Work Together – Ew. Chores. One of the dreaded parts of weekends or breaks for both parents and their children, but, unfortunately, they need to get done. Instead of commanding your teen to perform all of the cleaning or mowing by themselves, offer to help them with it, making the experience more tolerable and quicker for everybody. You can also make it more enjoyable by playing music or listening to a podcast together. This can also serve as a good opportunity to teach them new things and life skills for when they finally reach adulthood and move out. Two examples of this are: cooking together and teaching them how to change the oil in a car.
- Be Affirming – During these years, many teenagers are always judging their self-worth and seeking affirmation from their peers, teachers, and others around them. It is important to remember that they are also mostly seeking affirmation from YOU, their parents. They want to know: Are you proud of them? Are they doing a good job? Are they pretty? Smart? Capable? Saying affirming things to your teen can have an amazing effect on their lives. And, if you are in a situation when you do not want to embarrass them, as sometimes teens get embarrassed when you say these things in front of their friends, send them a text or leave them a note for later reading.
We at Just Mind hope that this article will help you build a relationship with your teenager. If you are interested in other blog posts related to teens, you can read Five Ideas for Supporting Teens in a Tough Moment. If you feel that you need additional help regarding your teen, you can read about teen counseling or contact us to make a counseling appointment. We have several counselors that work with teens and parents that can help you. Even if we are not the right fit, we are tied to an expansive network of counselors and will help you find the right match.