The teenage years are tough years to go through for both parents and for the teens. Most teenagers still want the comfort and support of being close to their family yet they have a strong desire to break away from the family mold and develop their own identity and to do things on their own. During the teen years, many parents feel as if they their teens are drifting apart from them. While it is natural and healthy for our teens to develop their own identity and to do things more independently, it is still important for parents to stay close to their teenagers. This can often be tough since teens tend to lean more towards their peers.
It’s important to recognize your child’s growing need for independence. However, it’s also important to let them know you are there for them. They will likely experience several challenges during the teen years and if they know you are around, they will be able to turn to you in their time of need.
Here are some ways that you can get closer to your teen:
Spend Quality Time Together – In this age of electronics, it is very important to have some face time with our teen. Set and keep a standing weekly or monthly date with your teen so that you can just connect and hang out with them. You can go for a walk, cook meals together, attending their extracurricular activities, or just have a quiet movie night at home. Take turns choosing the activity and just enjoy the time together. It is amazing what teens tend to talk about when their guards are down and they are spending one on one time with their parents.
The Power Of Touch – Your teen may squirm or balk at you when you try to hug or kiss them but they need your touch just as much now as they did when they were smaller. Don’t let the squirming fool you! While they may not reciprocate it really is important to convey your love to them in a tangible way. A hug, a touch of their hand or a pat on the back goes a long way with a teen that has a lot on their mind.
Enter Their World - Let’s face it … times have changed since we were teens. In order to really understand your teen and to get closer to them, it is important to take a trip into their world. You may not like all of the fads, lingos and trends that your teen is into, but understanding what your teen is attracted to may be of some help. Why not try to listen to the music that your teen enjoys to see to see what the attraction is. There are many times that I will be in the car with my 13 year old and I will flip through the radio stations and a song comes on that I know he likes that I am not a fan of but I will turn it up and just let it play. Usually I will ask questions about the artist, and or the lyrics just to let my teen know that I respect his interests.
Just Listen – Make time during the day or night to ask your teen about their day and then just listen. Show your teen that you are interested and are actively listening to everything that they have to say. This means that you must put down the paper or turn off your laptop and look them in the eye while they are talking. Sometimes, you just need to listen; you don’t need to try to solve their problems. This will instill in your child that you truly care about what they are feeling and that you are interested in hearing their feelings.
Be, Get & Stay Involved - Ok, so the time of holding your child’s hand daily may have passed now that you have a teen but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want you near. As your teen develops their independence, remember that deep down inside, they still want you to be there to cheer them on during the big moments in their life. Be sure to show up for games, recitals and events that they are involved in. They will appreciate your support and it will also help to make the parent-teen bond stronger.
Parenting teenagers takes tough skin and lots of love. Keeping in mind that your teen really does want to connect with you should be of some comfort when they pull away to exert their independence. Always keep the lines of communication open so your teen knows that no topic, situation or problem is off limits is important.