Have you ever found it difficult to build a good relationship with your teen? Have you ever felt disappointed, upset or confused that they don’t seem to understand where you’re coming from? Well, they probably feel the exact same way.
I have always had a great relationship with my daughter, Shalini. But she turned 13 a couple of months ago and since she became a teenager, I must admit there have been a few ups and downs. I wrote a letter about how I felt when she hit this milestone to help me deal with some of these emotions.She has so much going on in her life right now and wants to explore different interests, go out with her friends and spend some time on her own too, dealing with the changes in her life and enjoying her own company.
I know how I was as a teenager; stubborn, hormonal and sometimes rude. Shalini is going through pretty much the same. And as hard as it might be sometimes for Sukh and I right now, trying to understand her, I know one thing for sure. She needs us more than ever.
So I have come up with 13 ways which can help us to build a good relationship with our teen. Hopefully you will find them useful in helping you to connect with your own teenager too.
1. LISTEN TO THEM
As parents, we have the tendency to talk at our children and reel off a list of orders and expectations. It’s easier to instruct a child to do something but they’re now teens. They need you to listen more and talk less. So ask them about their day. Ask them questions without intruding and when they give you that opening, take it. Don’t just listen intently but really hear what they’re saying. They might not be comfortable in sharing their inner thoughts but if you make the process easier and they know their conversation isn’t falling on deaf ears, they might find it easier to build a stronger connection with you.
2. STAY CALM
It’s so important to stay in control of your temper. It’s easy to fly off the handle and show your disapproval or disappointment if your teen has done or said something which doesn’t sit right with you. It may be a big or small thing but it’s important to stay calm. I know flipping out has been an emotion I have been quick to display but I’ve learned to just hold back because losing your temper straight away could escalate and push your teen away. So choose your battles. Is it something you can let go? Is it something you feel is better addressed at a later time? The other important thing is not to undermine them or show them up in public. It’s easy to tell your child off in front of other people but count to ten and hold back. Don’t embarrass them. It will push them further away when they’re already going through a range of emotions.
3. SPEND QUALITY TIME
One on one time is so important when your child becomes a teenager. You may have other children and all of them need your undivided attention. But I feel a teen needs that little bit extra. It’s easy to think of them as older and therefore concentrating your attention on their younger siblings but your teen needs you now more than ever. Their bodies and minds are going through a whole lot of change. Some of it they understand but there are things they might be confused about. Take them out for a walk, for lunch or to the cinema. Whatever it is, make sure they know you are completely present with them and ready to talk and listen if they need. Make it a regular thing because this will strengthen your relationship with your teen.
4. PRAISE THEM
Don’t hold back on praise. If they have done something right, tell them. It’s such an obvious point but we often forget to shower praise on our children for whatever reason. I make a real effort to tell both of my kids that I am really proud of them when they do something well – and even when they haven’t done something so well. I still praise them because if they have given it their all, no matter the outcome, they deserve the well done. Teens are much more sensitive despite their tough exterior and sometimes defiant attitude. Show them you appreciate their efforts. Be there for important events in their life; assemblies, award ceremonies, parents’ evenings. Be ready to show your approval.
5. LEARN TO APOLOGISE
If you have done or said something wrong, be ready to apologise for it. This shows moral leadership and you want to set a good example for your teen. They’re much more likely to acknowledge their mistakes if you can confidently acknowledge your own. Teens can be rude and stubborn but they can’t always be in the wrong. When you have said something you shouldn’t, be genuine in your apology. Tell them why you’re apologising. You may have lost your temper or misunderstood something they said. If you can’t address your own mistakes, it could push them away. As adults, we are more likely to forget things said in the heat of the moment than a teen. They’re more likely to dwell on it and that’s not productive for your relationship.
6. HAVE A LAUGH
Tap in to your sense of humour and really make a big deal of using laughter as a way of bonding with your teen. Have a laugh with them. Be ready to giggle when they say something funny. Kids come out with all sorts of comments and observations which we’re quick to laugh at because we recognise they’re a child. It’s no different for a teen. Everyone likes to have a laugh but be genuine about it at the same time. Your teen will see right through you if you give them a fake giggle or a pity laugh.
7. UNDERSTAND YOUR TEEN
Remember that they’re growing up. Their bodies are changing. Their emotions are all mixed up and confused right now. They will have mood swings. They will have moments when the tears just roll and the doors slam. Respect the change in them and give them time on their own to deal with it. Don’t suffocate them with all of the points I’ve mentioned. Pick the right moment and sometimes let them lead the situation. They will tell you when they’re ready to talk through things – as long as you show them you have an open-door policy and are there whenever they need you.
8. LET THEM MAKE MISTAKES
This goes with all children. Let them make their own mistakes and sometimes even fail at things. Don’t jump in trying to resolve their problem or shoving obstacles out of their way. Let them find solutions to their own problems and allow them to tackle challenges alone. If they need your help they will ask for it. Your teen is at a stage when they want to be more independent. It’s good for them to deal with a situation in the same way an adult would. You’ll make them stronger this way and they will appreciate it too.
9. GET TO KNOW THEIR FRIENDS
Your teen will have made new friends at High School and they may continue to chop and change people their inner circle for some time. Make an effort to get to know their friends. Ask how they are, ask to meet them. Offer your house as a get-together spot when they all want to chill out in the evening or on a weekend. By staying connected to their friendship circle, you’ll stay connected with your teen without stifling them.
10. GIVE THEM SOME RESPONSIBILITY
Show your teen you think they’re responsible enough to make decisions for the family. These could be small things like deciding what to have for dinner, what movie to watch or where you should go for your next family vacation. Give them responsibility around the home too. Put them in charge of certain tasks. Not only does this show you value their input but it also sets them up for adulthood when they will be making tough decisions throughout their lives.
11. SHARE THEIR INTERESTS
Take an interest in what they’re in to. You could ask if you can join them when they’re watching their favourite TV show or listening to music. Maybe let them decide what music you should listen to when you’re in the car. Show interest and ask questions. Even if it’s something you don’t know or understand. Make the effort to know what they like. Make sure you’re across the latest apps and what each platform is all about. If your teen is old enough to be on several social media channels, hopefully they’re doing it safely. I will address this in an upcoming post.
12. SET BOUNDARIES
Talk to your teen and involve them in the process of deciding what is acceptable. What time can they stay out till? How far can they venture out on their own? How will pocket money work? Boundaries are really important because your teen still needs to know their are rules and consequences if they break them. If you show them you value their input, hopefully you won’t face adversity at every turn. Teens will continue to test the boundaries but make sure both parents are in agreement and show a united front. You might not want to compromise on anything but try to meet them some of the way.
13. BE A FRIEND BUT DON’T FORGET TO PARENT
Try the best you can to be a good friend to your teenager. Like I said before they need you the most right now, so do all of the things I’ve mentioned above. Those are things a friend would do for a friend; listen, laugh and understand. But at the same time, you’re a parent too, and of course you have to continue to be a responsible adult to keep your child safe, healthy and have them grow up to be an all-rounded individual. Be ready to say no when you have to. It’s important to strike the right balance.
So, during this stage of slamming doors, defiance and pushing you out, the most important thing you can do is to show them you love them unconditionally. I hope this list will help you to build a good relationship with your teen and be a good parent to a teenager.Have you read my post My Daughter Is Taller Than Me?