Whether your child is just becoming a tween or is a full-fledged teen, you most likely have noticed some attitude changes. Your sweet baby may not be so sweet any longer and you may feel on some days like you are navigating an emotional mine field.
The emotions of a teenager can be compared to a roller coaster ride–their highs are the highest and their lows are the lowest. In the midst of all that emotion, they may act like they don’t need their parents anymore.
But the honest truth is, your teen needs you more than ever. The trick is figuring out just what that looks like. How can you keep your connection with your child who was so easy to connect to as a little one, but seems distant to you as a teen?
It’s important for your teen to cultivate their independence while still having a relationship with their parents. As they grow towards independence, parents must do the delicate dance of letting them go while staying emotionally connected.
Here are some great ways to work on nurturing a relationship with your teen:
Share at least one meal together eveyday. Whether it’s breaksfast, lunch or dinner, use the time intentionally: share highs and lows from the day, talk about family plans, tell something you are thankful for, go around the table and answer a question. Don’t use meal time for lectures or judgement. Listen and learn from your kids as they talk.
Schedule a date. My husband used to take each of our three kids out on “dates.” Mostly they went to eat, but sometimes it was a special ocassion like a father/daughter dance or a ballgame. Those times only had one purpose: Stay away from arguments and just enjoy each other’s company.
Open your home to your child’s friends. We had lots of teens in the house, raiding our fridge and pantry, playing video games, swimming, and just hanging out. Getting to know our kids’ friends was important for us to stay connected with what was going on without prying, and it was important for our kids; they liked that their friends felt comfortable in our house. Another great way to be around the kids and listen to them is by volunteering to drive for field trips and sports events. I always learned a lot when I drove a car full of teens!
Be Available. Parents often complain that their teen doesn’t want to talk, so when they do, it’s important to set aside everything else and listen. It may not be convenient, but giving them your attention will let them know how important they are to you.
Know and speak their love language. Everyone has a love tank that is filled in ways unique to them. If you do not know your teen’s love language, take time to investigate. Here’s an assessment you can give your child and once you know their love language, find ways to speak it to them so that their love tank is filled.
Plan for space to connect. There may be times when you are really struggling to connect with your teen and it becomes necessary to create some space for that to happen. Things like an afternoon of fishing, a day at the beach, or going on a day trip provide time without pressures. Just being present in those spaces will often result in good conversations that might not have happened otherwise.
My friend takes his three boys on “gratitude walks” every morning. Sometimes they don’t talk at all, sometimes he asks a question about what they are grateful for, and sometimes they come up with some profound or insightful words that my friend would most likely have never heard if he hadn’t created that space.
It’s easy to assume that teens just want to be left alone, but whether they know it or not, that is NOT what they want deep down or what they need. They still need you, although it’s in a different way than when they were small. Be persistent and intentional about connecting and communicating with them.
If you are struggling to connect with your teen and would like some tools to make that happen, please schedule a free consultation.