If you feel that your teen is some kind of alien invader that has just taken root in your house, you are not alone. It has always been difficult for parents to connect with their teenaged children, but in this digital age of smartphones and social media, it may seem like the “generation gap,” is wider than the Grand Canyon!
But, don’t panic – there are still many practical ways you can reach across that yawning chasm and connect with your teen. Here are 10 of them!
- Listen with empathy, but don’t preach – Listen and empathize with your kids when they tell you they have a problem. But, unless they specifically ask you for help (and what teen does?) try not to give any advice. To a teen, no matter how good your advice may be, whenever you give it, you are sending a message that he or she can’t solve his or her problems on their own. Be a sounding board, not a preacher, and you’ll find your teen coming back for more.
- Be available – When and if your teen finally decides to open up with you about something, be available. The worst thing you can do is say, “not now, I’m busy,” or “I’m too tired.” Even if its 1AM, or if you are late for work, make yourself available for your teen when they want to talk.
- Have family rituals – A great way to connect and stay connected is to build traditions and family rituals. The earlier in your kid’s life you establish these and maintain them, the more likely they will continue into teen-hood. It can be something as simple as eating at your kid’s favorite restaurant once a week, to making sure that you all do eat together as a family each night, or to bed time rituals that include a little chat with mom or dad before saying good-night.
- Praise and affection – No matter how “embarrassing” they outwardly say that it is, and how “cool” and “grown-up” your teens think that they are, they are never too old to secretly desire praise and affection from you. Believe it or not, you can bond with your teen on a daily basis by doing those things that come naturally to you as a parent—saying “I love you” often, making sure to always tell your teens “good night” and “good morning”, or surprising them with their favorite snack in their lunch, or when they get home – are appreciated, whether they admit it or not!
- Show interests in their interests – Whatever your teen expresses an interest in, even if it is something you yourself are not interested in it, get interested in it and participate. If they are into basketball, learn about and follow their favorite team, and get out and shoot some baskets with them, if its dance or art, take some classes with them. Whatever it is, it is important that you support and share you kid’s interests.
- Allow them to self-express – As long as they are not doing something dangerous or inappropriate, allow you kids to dress and style their hair, etc, the way they wish.
- Be nice and welcoming to their friends – Unless there is good reason not to be, be approving and welcoming to their friends. If they are over you house, offer them snacks, give them compliments, basically try to connect with them in the ways we are suggesting you connect with your own teen, and it will only help improve the relationship you have with your teenager.
- Never take it personally – “I hate you,” “I wish you were dead,” “you are the worst mom ever!” Every parent of a teen has heard all these words, and WORSE! The important thing is not to take these words personally. The experts suggest: take a deep breath, let the hurt go, and remind yourself that your child does in fact love you but can’t get in touch with that love at the moment.
- 9. Make a date – Your teen is at that stage in his or her life where they have moved from “play dates,” to “date-dates.” You need to be a part of that too! Let’s face it you and your teen probably both have incredibly busy schedules. There is nothing wrong with scheduling a specific date to go shopping, fishing, to a movie, or whatever, in order to spend some bonding time with your teens.
- 10. Limit distractions – This may sound like a no-brainer, but on those rare occasions when you are with your teens, minimize the distractions – for them obviously that means no phones! But, for you too, when you are trying to bond with your teens, turn off the TV, the radio in the car, look away from your computer… and give your teen your full attention, and you just may get the same in return!