How to Connect With Your Teenage Kids
Going through adolescence is no pleasure cruise. It comes with overwhelming physical changes, new social pressures, introductions to dangerous substances and other destructive decisions, all while you’re going through that awkward transitional phase between childhood and adulthood. It’s no wonder the stereotypical teenager is grouchy and emotional, sullen and ready to snap at the seemingly most innocent comment. While that life stage is arduous for every young adult coming into their own, it’s also a tricky time for the parents of teens to navigate. By making conscious, informed parenting efforts, your relationship with your child can flourish, even during those difficult teenage years. Here’s how to connect with your teenage kids.
Pause Some Parental Instincts
When your child is inconsolable because they're in a fight with their best friend or they are failing a class, your first parental instinct is likely to fix the problem as quickly as possible. After all, no parent wants to see their child in pain! But however pure your intentions may be, jumping to a quick resolution has the potential to make your teenager feel like their problems are insignificant and that they do not have a good reason to be upset. By ignoring the quick-fix instinct for a moment, you won’t invalidate your child’s feelings; this will establish trust with them so that they will be more likely to come to you with their problems in the future.
Make Family Time a Routine
If spending time with family is not an established expectation in your household, it can be easy for your teenager to slink away to their room without really talking to you. When this becomes a pattern, connecting with your child on a daily basis can be extra difficult. But by establishing family dinners, movie nights, or Sunday outings, you get regular opportunities to interact with your teen in a no-pressure environment.
Connect Through Their Interests
Maybe your teenager expressed interest in starting a sport, or joining an art class. Take these musings seriously and support them–maybe even do something with them! Whether you're on the field with your teen or watching from the bleachers, taking an interest in their interests makes them feel heard and valued.
However, if they try out a new hobby and end up not liking it as much as they thought they would, don't turn into a tiger mom and pressure them; teens are just starting to figure themselves out. It may take a few tries to find something they really enjoy, and it's best to let that interest grow organically.
Lead With Patience
When your teenagers screams "I hate you!" and slams the door in your face, it can be hard to meet their blow-up with a rational response but try to remember: they are struggling with their powerful emotions just as much as you are. Changes in environment and social groups, increased stressors, and hormonal fluctuations can all make life as a teenager overwhelming. Though their crankiness might be directed at you, their bad mood very often does not have anything to do with you. So even though it's no fun having your kid be snippy with you, remember that they need you now, when they’re feeling like the world is against them, more than ever.
We usually associate compliment showers with younger children. At family gatherings, relatives will gush, "Oh, you've gotten so tall! You look beautiful! What a smart girl!" As children grow up, these words of affirmation often fade away, but we don't stop needing encouragement as we age! In fact, teenagers are especially susceptible to suffering from low-self esteem at this time, so don't shy away from giving some positive feedback, even if it might feel like your teen doesn't need it.
Show Unwavering Support
Praise comes naturally when your child succeeds. If they get straight A’s or make the varsity basketball team, you can easily give them a pat on the back for their hard work, but it's just as important to show support when your child succeeds as when they fail. By telling them you are proud of them, regardless of their successes and failures, they will know that speaking with you is safe and that they can come to you with their concerns without fear of judgement.
Remember That This Is Difficult
Most parents-to-be dread the “Terrible Twos,” and with good reason! At this time, your child’s teenage years can seem a lifetime away, and you’ll probably have mastered many more parenting skills by the time your baby turns thirteen. However, adolescence requires a whole new skill set because adolescence is its own new journey with its own set of unique challenges; not only is your teen going through growing pains, but you are losing your child as they grow into an adult! Plus, the path to adulthood is a lot more prickly and emotional than you may remember. However, with some effort, patience, and understanding, you can connect with your teenager kids and achieve a healthy relationship with them.