Between the hormone-fueled rudeness and the closed-door retreats, your teenager may seem like an alien being who’s unlikely to be responsive to the caring attentions of a well-meaning parent.
But sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to break down those walls into the teen mind and heart. Today, behavioral experts largely agree that the critical disciplinarian parenting of old needs to give way to something more positive if you hope to have a good relationship with your teen.
What teens need most from their parents at a time of huge emotional and physical change is love and support. So why do they make it so hard to connect?
Bonding becomes trickier with teenagers as they push for more autonomy and independence. To that end, you have to follow the teen’s lead and be available to them on their terms, which means sometimes they don’t want to be seen with you, or have you in their room. You have to respect that and step into the shadow, with the hopes that the foundation you built with them is strong from the previous 13 years.
Building a stable of commonly enjoyed shared activities early on is crucial. Be creative. The main thing is to try to avoid making that naturally occurring separation more difficult than it has to be.
Love and trust
It can be frustrating to attempt a hug or say “I love you” to an affection-averse teen, but keep trying.
Showing love is so important. It is the key that unlocks the door to trust with your kids. You see it over and over again that if trust and respect are not there, there is no love and there is no relationship.
Realistically, trust can be broken. However, it’s important then that as parents, you work to re-establish that trust and move forward.
You can try to apply business logic to the home environment, setting aside one-on-one time with each of your children to touch base and try to have some open dialogue at least quarterly.
Tell your kids to come to you, to let you be their first ‘Google search’.
Keeping in touch
Maintaining frequent communication about activities and what’s happening in your teen’s life is also crucial.
There’s going to be a lot of trial and error in maintaining that bond, but getting involved in their activities and connecting with their friends can really help. One warning to heed: Don’t interrogate, just be there and try to have fun.
Technology can be divisive, but acknowledge as a family to use it as a positive communication tool. Group text with family members and sync up calendars or to-do lists to keep everyone on the same page. Make sure the calendar and lists are mutually agreed upon on a designated Family Planning Night each week.
Not having the ability to have access to each other’s calendars removes a level of awareness, and can cause you to become reactionary, which can lead to contentious behaviors.
Ultimately, building a good relationship with your teen comes down to being as involved as they’ll let you, and being loving and encouraging. Even—or especially—in the midst of a ferocious teen tantrum, it’s important to focus on your child’s positive traits and offer up your faith that he or she is highly capable and fully equipped to avoid negative behaviors.
If you’ve created a strong enough family bond by being supportive and involved, then it is more likely that you’re the one they want to come to when they’re in trouble.