For many parents, staying connected and close with their teenager is quite the challenge. If you have felt that way, you are not alone! The teenage years are defined by emotions, changes, and a drive for individuality and independence. Often times parents feel lost and confused as they watch their once open and loving child, become more distant, secretive, moody, or secluded. Below are 4 tips for parents on how to stay connected with your teenager.
1.Approach conversations with an intent to listen. Parents tend to want to give advice, to share their own experiences, or to fix a problem. They do this out of care and concern for their child, and from a desire to help teach and mold their child as they grow. While these are important parenting techniques, they are sometimes not the most effective way to connect with an emotional teenager. Approach conversations with intent to listen means to remind yourself, I’m here to validate, to understand, and to show compassion, not to offer advice or correction. Try statements like, “Wow, that must be very stressful, I am here for you if you need me,” or, “that sounds very overwhelming, I can see why you would be upset about that.” Listening without offering advice or correction is a great way to let your teenager know that you understand them and can relate to them, making them feel more comfortable to discuss difficult topics with you in the future.
2.Offer reassurance. More often than not in my practice, I hear teenagers tell me, “I wish my parents would just tell me everything is going to be okay.” Sometimes a reassuring comment like, “things will get better next week,” or, “I’m sure you and your friend will work this out, it’s just temporary,” is exactly what your teen needs to hear to relieve their feelings of worry or dread. Adults carry life experience that reassures them that problems between friends, or relationship issues will resolve with time. For teens, however, this may be their very first experience with some of these issues, and they need to be reminded or taught that these negative feelings won’t last forever.
3.Remember what it was like to walk in their shoes. Think back to your days a teenager. What were your biggest stressors? What did your parents do that you found helpful? Is there something your parents did that you would not want to repeat with your teen? Check-in with yourself and make sure that you are communicating with your teen in a way that you would have wanted to be spoken to.
4.Make them laugh. Teens love to connect through a shared enjoyable experience. Is there a funny memory you haven’t talked about in a while? Is there a YouTube video you both enjoy that you can laugh at together? Let your teen teach you about the things that make them laugh and smile and make sure to incorporate those things into your weekly dialogue. Teenagers are under constant stress and pressure from school expectations, extracurricular involvement, and the desire to fit in with peers, how special would it be to be the person that put a smile on their face each week? J
Kristin O’Connor, M.S., LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
-For more communication tips or advice for teens, please contact
Kristin O’Connor at: Kristin.firstname.lastname@example.org