Being a teenager is already hard. But being a teenager and feeling like your parents don’t get you is even tougher. As a parent, you may be feeling at a loss for how to respond to your son or daughter sometimes. As teenagers change as people, your relationship to them will have to change, too. They’re craving more and more independence, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need your love and guidance anymore.
So how can you strive for a relationship that is both a) closely connected and b) allows for independence? Here are some ideas:
- Meet them where they are
Teens want to feel like they have a say in something, and that you respect their schedule. Rather than saying, “Friday night, you need to come to the movies with the rest of the family,” try this instead: “Hey, I’d like to spend some time with you this weekend. What day or night would be better for you?”
- Listen more, advise less
I can’t emphasize this one enough. As a therapist who works with teens, the complaint I most often hear is that they don’t feel listened to by their parents. I understand how this happens – if they’re hurting, you want to cheer them up. If they’re struggling, you want to offer advice that you just KNOW will help. But teens (and adults) often feel invalidated by this. Instead, try simply saying, “Wow, that problem sounds frustrating.”
- Remain calm
During heated conflict, it’s vital that you keep your cool. If your tone takes on an edge or you start yelling, you’ve opened the door for them to do it, too. If they’re yelling, your calm demeanor will help maintain some sense of stability. Model for them what you want to see! If you feel your frustration rise, there’s no harm in suggesting a break from the conversation, but make sure you come back to it.
- Acknowledge your mistakes
When you say something you regret, acknowledge this to your teenager and apologize for it. Yes, EVEN IF THEY SAID UNKIND THINGS TOO! Again, you’re the grown-up. It’s up to you to model appropriate behavior and repair the relationship.
- Relax and have fun together
You might be feeling like it’s harder for you to hang out with your kid now than it was when they were little. And it’s okay to feel a little awkward. But everyone’s interested in something – make an effort to figure out what your teen is into, and plan quality time around that.
If you get stuck on thinking of activities, here are some screen-free ideas:
- Go for a walk or hike
- Play catch or Frisbee
- Cook or bake together
- Eat at a restaurant you’ve both been wanting to try
- One-time painting class (such as Painting with a Twist)
- Rearrange their bedroom
- Play a board game or cards
For more ideas on improving your relationship with your teen, check out any of the following resources. Clicking the title will take you directly to the Amazon page.
The above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage of what you spend without it costing you anything extra. I only recommend books that I honestly see value in, whether or not you purchase it through these links. If you’re uncomfortable using the affiliate links, you can visit http://www.amazon.com and type the book you’re searching for.