As your child grows into their teenage years, it becomes easy to drift apart. Their toddler years are gone in a flash, then their elementary and middle school days are over, and suddenly, there’s a teenager in your house who wants an extended curfew. Worst of all, they would rather spend time alone in their room than with their family.
As teens develop their own identities, it’s normal for them to want to spend more time alone or with their peers.
As a parent, it can seem impossible to stay connected with your teen as they become increasingly more reluctant to spend time with you. In this article, we’ll share some productive and appropriate ways to connect with your teen during these tumultuous years.
How to Stay Involved in Your Teen’s Life
Teens today are facing brand new stressors and difficulties. With their smartphones in their pockets and the digital world at their fingertips, being a teenager is a lot more complicated than it was for previous generations. From cyberbullying, constant information streams, mass shootings, political turmoil, and global pandemics, there’s a lot that your teen may be experiencing emotionally and psychologically.
As our society becomes increasingly connected online, our relationships in the real world become more fragmented. Staying connected with your child has never been more difficult, and more important than it is today. Here are some ways to connect with your child and help them feel supported and heard.
Establish a set family time
Family time may annoy your teen, but staying connected starts with making the effort to spend time together. Maintaining a tight-knit family can help your teen’s self-esteem, no matter their age.
If you have multiple children, family time can be tricky with everyone’s busy schedules, but enjoying each other’s company will do everyone in the family some good. Whether it’s a few times a month or one night a week, establish a time that works for everyone, and ensure your teen is on board.
Have one-on-one time
Just as family time is important, so is one-on-one time. Whether you have a daughter or a son, and whether you are a mom or a dad, one-on-one time spent with your teen can inspire meaningful conversation, build healthy relationships, and foster strong mental health. Let your teen pick an activity and make your one-on-one time a regular occurrence.
This one-on-one time provides your teen with the chance to have your undivided attention. During this time ensure that your teen is your number one priority to you. One-on-one time can also reduce stress in your teen’s life by encouraging them to open up and share what’s going on in their life. Spending individual time with your teens can improve their self-esteem, improve their academic performance, and develop positive behaviors.
Whether it’s a monthly weekend brunch with just the two of you or regular meals at home, stay connected over food as much as you can. Let your child pick the restaurant or the meal you’ll cook together.
Sharing a fun activity like cooking can remind your teen that they belong somewhere and that they are important. You can keep the conversation light and playful and just enjoy spending time together.
Trying to offer advice may not be the best approach when relating to your teen, but you can share stories and experiences from when you were their age. They may roll their eyes at you, but hearing their mom or dad talk about times with they fought with friends or struggled to see eye-to-eye with their parents can help them feel more normal about what they’re going through or how they may be feeling.
Sharing stories and experiences from your teenage years can also help you relate to your child. It may remind you of how difficult and stressful adolescence can be. A gentle reminder of what your teen may be going through will encourage you to listen more, talk less, and be there for them in any way you can.
Be the sounding board
Foster a relationship with your teen that encourages openness and honesty, and casts away judgment and critique. In a world filled with social media, prejudice, and bullying, nurture your teen’s heart by creating a safe space for them to speak. Simply listening to them talk about their issues, big or small, could be the difference between a strong or weak relationship with your teenager.
Communication is key in any relationship, whether that’s between parent and child, spouses, or friends. Create a space where your teen feels safe to ask questions and talk from adult to adult, so they know that you respect them and think they are mature.
Get to know their friends
An easy way for parents to stay connected and involved with their teen’s life is by creating an open home that always welcomes their friends. This can be anything from sleepovers on the weekends, study sessions, or even rides home from school or parties. Interacting with your teen’s friends allows you to keep an eye on your child without being overbearing.
Maintain important rituals
Young adults still need their parents and the rituals that you and your teen have done throughout their lives can keep you connected for years down the line. As your kids grow up, these rituals may change. As they get older, rituals can be as simple as a weekly ice cream date, seeing a movie together once a month, or walking the dog after school. Family rituals create the chance for your family to bond, make memories, and enjoy being together without the stress of school, work, and other commitments.
Be a good listener
A big part of being a parent to a teenager is centered around being able to listen. The relationship you have with your teenager will improve as you learn to listen to what’s going on in their daily life; from school, teachers, friends, sports, and hobbies, simply getting to know your child and their interests, fears, stressors, and passions will benefit their self-esteem and how close they feel to you.
Learning to listen will also benefit your relationship as your teen can explain their feelings and struggles. You don’t need to be the one to solve problems. Just making them feel seen, heard, and understood is essential to building on your connection and helping them feel normal and safe.
Show them affection
The littlest sign of affection can go a long way with your child. While teens may act like they don’t want your hugs or affection, find other ways to show them that you love them.
Whether that’s starting every day with a “good morning!”, stopping in their room before bed to say good night, or texting them during the day just to talk, teenagers will appreciate these small tokens of love more than you (or they) realize.
Put the phones away
These days, adults are just as consumed with the world of technology as teenagers are, so make a mutual agreement that you will both try to not use your phones during your committed time together. Social media can be detrimental to teens’ and parents’ mental health alike. Although it may be challenging, abstaining from phone use means you can make eye contact with your teen and ensure that you are listening and engaged with what they are sharing with you.
Teenagers may not be children anymore, but they are still learning from you and your actions. It’s essential to give your teen your full attention in order to stay connected.
Struggling to connect with your teen? Help is available at Clear Recovery Center’s Teen Program.
The teenage years can be challenging for the entire family. Emotions run high, hormones are raging, and it can be difficult to make a connection with the young adult living in your home. These years are difficult for both the parents and the teens, and if you need extra help with communicating, there are resources available for families that can help bridge the gap.
Clear Recovery Center offers a teen mental health program designed to treat the unique struggles that this generation is facing in today’s world. Teenagers are experiencing a new wave of mental health challenges. If you have a child or adolescent at home that seems to be struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Learn more about our teen program here.