You drive them to school. You attend their sports games. You even have an occasional meal with them. Yet, you still feel like the relationship with your teenager is superficial at best. You want to be “the go to person” for your teenager, but are not sure how to “break into their world.” There may not even be a lot of conflict between you two, but you still feel more like strangers than confidantes.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could connect with your teenager? If you could begin the process of tearing down the walls and help establish some emotional trust and closeness?
As a parent you cannot force your teenager to open up to you. All you can do is create a relational environment, that over time, she will know that she can come to you with her problems.
A relationship which she knows she will be heard, rather than lectured. An environment where he is certain he can be encouraged rather than ridiculed. A relationship filled with dialogues of sound advice and discussion rather than parental monologues and attempts to control.
So how do you begin the process of connecting with your teenager? Here are some suggestions that will take a minimum of 5 minutes per day to enhance the rapport with your teenager.
1. Become an observer
A direct key into connecting with your teenager is to find out what influences them or what captures their attention. Where do they spend most of their time? Maybe your son spends most of his time on gaming with his friends, or connecting with them on social networking sites. Perhaps your daughter finds community with her friends on her athletic team or spending time with her friends. By observing, you will gather important information about your teenager that can be a doorway to future discussion.
2. Become a learner
Once you have discovered what your teenager likes and what influences their attention, learn more about it and then begin discussing it. The best way to learn about something is to ask non-threatening questions to your teenager about what they like. Non-threatening questions acquire more information rather than demonstrate the need for justification.
For example, instead of saying “Why do you like this Facebook site?” try saying “This Facebook site is really interesting. Can you show me some more?” The former can cause your teenager to become defensive raising the need to justify what he enjoys. The latter already communicate his hobby is valid and the fact that you are interested in leaning more about it. Everyone likes to spend time talking about their interests. For teenagers, it makes them feel intelligent and mature. In addition, we all like spending time with those that share in interest in what we like. So, it is with your teenager.
3. Be an encourager
View the adolescent years as a learning process. Their judgment and critical thinking skills are developing. This is part of the developmental task they must go through. Teenagers make mistakes. Some intentional, but I believe most of them are unintentional. Just as certain that teenagers will make these blunders; parents will get frustrated during this process. Their decisions will not make any sense to you, and their mistakes can be tiresome. But, when the dust settles, teenagers need to be encouraged. They need to know that they are more valuable to you than their failures. Encouragement comes in many forms. Verbal affirmations, physical hugs, a well written note, calm demeanor and tone of voice are just a few examples that can encourage your teenager. Even more, catch your teenager doing something right and tell him.
4. Be a participator
For most teenagers, relationships are more important to them than wealth or prestige. Therefore, choose to become a participant in their world. If you know what captures their attention then find someway to participate with them, even if you do not enjoy it. Many teenagers also value social causes and many choose to participate in them. Find a local community organization that needs volunteers and invite your teenager along. Get creative and find deliberate ways to stay in touch with your teenager.
5. Be willing to get some help with your relationship
Often, parents and teenagers can get stuck in rut. Relationships sometimes need outside help to bring clarity and insight. Be willing to seek help from a qualified counselor that specializes in teenagers and parenting relationships. If you go to together, it will make your teenager feel less like the main cause of the problem.