by Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT
The teenage years can be confusing and difficult for both the child and parent. These are critical years as your teen learn about themselves and become more independent. These years can be frustrating time for parents as their teen pulls away and spends more time with peers. There can be arguments with your teen as they test the boundaries.
Things need not be complicated and there are many ways for you and your child to manage a healthy relationship through mutual respect and love. All it requires is for you to keep a cool head and exercise patience, as you adapt to the fact that your child is now a young adult.
Here are seven ways to build a better connection-
- Make the Most of Daily Routines
When you are in the car with your teen it can be a safe place for them to open up since you do not have to make eye contact. They can feel comfortable letting their guard down. Go with the flow and use these opportunities to talk about personal topics. Going shopping with your teen is another time you can connect and learn more about them in a low stress setting. It can also give you some insight into how they feel about their body image. Doing chores together you can make it a friendly competition to see who completes it first or work together as one person rinses the dishes and the other loads them into the dishwasher.
- Get Interested in Their Interests
Find out what your teen enjoys. What is their favorite music, TV show, video game, or novel? Use these interests as conversation starters and a way to get to know your teen better. Connecting with them over their interests shows you care and want to learn more about them.
- Be Calm
The teen years can bring struggle between you both and it is important to remain calm and pause before responding. This is not easy when your teen behaves rudely, but yelling and threats will only make it worse. Ask yourself what your child might be trying to say? Remember they are stilling learning to communicate and might need a little help to express themselves more effectively. Take a deep breath or break if you feel you might say something you’d regret. As the adult, it is important for you set the example.
- Open Your Doors
Allow your teen to have their friends over. Let your house be a place they come hang out at and have fun. It gives them a safe place to be with their friends and also allows you to learn more about who they hang out with.
- Be Understanding
Remember what it’s like to be a teen. It’s a time of rapid change in their body, brain, and becoming more independent. Your teen experiences stress from the growing responsibilities at school, home, and with peers. Your teen is not going to be perfect. Show them compassion when they make mistakes. Be available as a sounding board when they are working through challenges. They need to know you love and care for them.
When your teen wants to talk to you, you need to stop what you are doing and listen to them. They might need some help with homework or to unload the events of the day. They need to know that you’ll be take the time and be there for them. As a teen they may come to you less than they did as a child and it’s important to make the most of each time they need you.
- Make a Date
Plan a date for the two of you to go do something they enjoy. Let them take the lead. It’s also an opportunity for you to try something new and let them be an expert.
Avoid these to keep communication lines open
We know you want to keep communication lines open and that it can be difficult when your teen holds back what’s going on. It is important to give them some space as they are figuring out how to manage their peer relationships as well as the stresses of school. It is important to avoid the following as they will close up the communication lines and break trust.
- Joking: You can use humor to dispel tension, but some subjects require a serious approach. Joking belittles the experience, making teens think that you’re mocking their problems.
- Interrupting: Let your kids finish what they have to say before interrupting with your own opinions or thoughts.
- Lecturing: No one wants to hear a lecture, least of all teenagers. Give them space before you talk about your own ideas.
- Judging: Difficult subjects, like drinking and sex, require lengthier discussions, but before you judge your teenagers, be patient. Listen to what they have to say, and show them respect.
Start slow. You don’t want to overwhelm your teen.
I know you may be excited to be all of these tips into practice right away. Start slow. Talk to your teen first about spending time together. You can mention some of these suggestions and see how they feel.
Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationships Matter Austin in Austin, Texas. Carlene can help you and your teen open the lines of communication again and rebuild their trust in you. To schedule your appointment with Carlene, you can reach her at (512) 994-0432 or request an appointment with her on the Relationships Matter Austin Scheduling Page.