Establish Dependable Time with your Teen
Research shows that teenagers with involved parents are more likely to make better decisions, stay out of trouble, and develop into successful, independent adults. However, during adolescence, parents and children often begin to spend more time apart. It’s natural for teenagers to explore relationships with friends and other people outside their families as they try to establish their independence. In addition, it can be difficult for parents to know how to balance the fine line of staying involved while still giving teens their freedom. When your child was young, you worked to meet all of their needs, but teens need to take over that responsibility, so you may not know where you fit in.
Despite these difficulties, your teen still needs a strong relationship with you, which is built through connection – genuine closeness. Family members can sometimes share a lot of time together in the same physical space, but that doesn’t mean that they are connecting. Here are some tips for creating the opportunity for genuine connection with your teen:
- Be sure to check in with your teen every single day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. A short conversation at breakfast or right before bed can keep you tuned in, establish open communication, and let your teen know that you are dependable.
- Eat a meal together a few times each week. Create a rule that there are no electronics allowed at dinner. Studies show that when families eat together, parents are more likely to hear about problems in their kids’ lives, and teens are more likely to believe their parents are interested in them. Statistically, children who enjoy regular family meals have better grades, are less likely to be overweight, and are less likely to use drugs.
- Follow their activities. Your teen is bound to have some activity that interests them. If it’s a hobby, ask them to explain the details. If it’s a sport, go to their games. If it’s art, take a painting class together. You get the idea… connect with them in an area that is meaningful to them.
- Ask them to teach you something. Teens get tired of being told how to do things all the time, so flip the table on them! Is your teen tech savvy? Ask them to help you set up a social media account or fix your computer. Does your teen like to climb the rock wall at the local gym? Ask them to guide you up the wall. Is your teen a baker? Ask them to teach you their favorite recipe. There are bound to be things your teen knows how to do really well, so ask them to be your teacher.
- Volunteer together. Doing something nice for someone else makes us feel good, and doing a good deed together can improve a relationship. Talk to your teen about something you would like to do – serve meals at the homeless shelter, rake your neighbor’s leaves, bake cookies for the local police department, etc. – and see if they would like to help you.
- Get active. Not all teens are interested in just sitting around and talking, and sometimes doing something active can lead to more natural conversations. Play catch, walk the dog, ride bikes, or play a game of hoops.
- Schedule a date. Teenagers aren’t always enthusiastic about spending time with their parents, but it’s worth insisting that you schedule an activity that you will both enjoy at least once a month. You don’t have to plan an elaborate outing; it can be as simple as going to get some ice cream. Scheduling time together shows your teen that they are a priority to you.
It’s important to remember that, when you are trying to connect with your teen, you must practice active listening. You should stop what you’re doing and seek to understand your teen’s point of view. The idea is to listen without judging or correcting. Your goal during these connection times is to be with your child, not to give advice or help unless they ask for it.