Let’s face it: the the early years are rough. They’re filled with hormones, physical and emotional changes, increased stressors, and so much more. For many families, this period becomes a time of disconnection between parents and teenagers. And that makes sense to some extent, because as our kids get older we want them to become more independent so they can successfully step into the world. However, adolescence is the most important time to make an effort to stay in touch with our children.
The connection value
Why? Well, connection is the foundation of all relationships. The connection acts as an anchor that allows someone to safely venture into the world. For teens, a strong bond with parents translates into confidence, inner strength, and growing independence – all of which we want our teens to develop as they prepare to get started. This anchor also allows us to safely weather relational storms. when we to feel connected to someone, we can stay afloat even when the relationship is difficult.
Connection also allows us to be receptive to comments. If we don’t feel connected to someone, we’re unlikely to hear and be open to any advice, guidance or direction from them. As parents, it is our duty to provide support and guidance to our teens as they grow and learn. If we are disconnected, they will likely ignore or rebel against our attempts to become parents.
4 tips for communicating with your teenager
Unlike when our kids are younger and eager to spend time with us, this can be a bit harder to find. ways to communicate with our teens. We need to be aware of connecting on a daily basis and be creative. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Show them that you care about what matters to them.
As your teenager gets older, he or she will likely develop an array of interests and passions. Some of these interests may appeal to you and understand, but others may seem completely foreign to you. It is natural to take an interest in our children when they are excited about the ideas and activities that we enjoy. But it’s just as, if not more, important to show interest in activities that do not match our natural preferences.
Connect by showing genuine curiosity about what your teen is doing. Ask them to tell you about the things they like. Try to participate in the activity or participate with them if possible. Connect with your teenager around their passions will help them feel that you care about them because of your efforts to care about what is important to them.
2. Emphasize what you love about your teenager.
When i work with teens in therapy, they often share that they don’t think their parents like them. Although I know it’s not true, sometimes I can see what they might be feeling that way. As teens grow older, the bond between them and their parents can feel more and more transactional: do it; don’t do that; why didn’t you … you see the picture. If you have a teenager, I bet you feel like you’re constantly harassing them. As a result, teens can start to internalize negativity in the relationship, often focusing on it and downplaying the positivity.
Therefore, it is essential that you focus on all the things that you love, admire and appreciate about them, and remember to tell them these things regularly. It can also be helpful for parents who start to get stuck thinking their teenager is disrespectful, lazy, bad – you are filling the void. Focusing on our teen’s strengths is really good for both parties and fosters a positive connection. Take a moment now to write down 3 to 5 things you like about your teenager. Then be sure to tell them over the next day or two.
3. Validate their feelings and experiences.
Oh, the teens. Everything for a teenager feels like the end of the world. For parents, it can be very easy to get into the habit of minimizing their experiences and feelings – because, well, sometimes their issues are quite small compared to what we know people can struggle with every day. But for our teenager, at this point, their problem seemed overwhelming. And we don’t make them feel better when we say things like ‘it’s okay’, or ‘everything will be fine’, or my favorite, ‘you’re just dramatic’. In fact, using these empathy busters will make them worse and make them feel disabled and out of touch with you.
So instead, work on validate your teenager’s feelings and experiences – no matter how minor you think the problem is. Try saying things like “this sounds really difficult” or “I can see why this would bother you” or “tell me more”.
4. Spend time together.
Okay, I know this one sounds tough. I mean, how many teenagers want to hang out with their parents? It’s like their job to act like we’re embarrassing, boring and not cool to be there, right? The answer is a tough yes, but I promise they still want to hang out with you. They probably won’t be asking for it, so don’t take this as a sign that they don’t want to hang out with you. Take the lead and invite them to do things with you or ask to participate with them in things that you know they like. Make these times as stress free as possible. Don’t talk about things that you know are causing conflict or discomfort. There is plenty of time to talk about school and their to-do list. Protect yourself this time around so that it is positive for both of you. Take this opportunity to observe them and take care of them with all their wonderful might. These positive interactions will enrich your relationship with your teenager and build trust and connection between you.
Prepare for a strong adult parent / child relationship
These are just a few ways to communicate with your teenager. Remember, connection is an anchor that will help your relationship get through the rough waters of adolescence. Take every opportunity you can to strengthen that anchor so that when you come out the other side you can pull the anchor and sail in a adult relationship with your child.
If you would like help with your teenager or with your parents, consider contacting a therapist in your area. To start your search, click here.
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