Posted on: 03.05.2017.
Author: Ana G
For teenagers, the world changes quickly. They fall in love for the first time, their bodies change in unexpected ways, they experience heartbreak, bullying and a host of new problems that come with age. As a parent, you remember these experiences, but you also know that life becomes easier to manage with time, and you want to be there for your kids as they go through these new challenges.
At the same time, your teenager may start to rebel. From spending hours on social media to texting with friends, your kids can start to shut you out. Fortunately, there are ways to break down these barriers and connect with your teenagers. Building trust with your kids will help you to break down their walls so that you can be there for them when they really need you. Here are eight ways to build a better connection.
Take an interest in your kids' interests, whether it's rock climbing or sci-fi fantasy novels. Music is especially important since teenagers tend to listen to music more often than they watch TV. Music also gives you a better sense of the culture that your kids are growing up in. Teenagers start to explore new forms of self-identification, and it's important to support them as they test the waters. Getting involved also gives you talking points if you're having trouble communicating.
Keep in mind that you don't have to like or pretend to like the activity, sport, movie or music that your teen likes. The key is to show an interest so that your children feel comfortable talking to you about it. If they can talk about their interests, they may feel better about coming to you with other questions, problems or concerns down the road.
Find time during the day to sit down for family discussion. They shouldn’t be formal. Instead, create opportunities for you and your kids to communicate more naturally, such as eating breakfast together or planning weeknight snack times that force you to convene. This may feel forced and uncomfortable at first, but over time, you'll be able to relax and enjoy each other's company without the pressure of busy schedules.
Teenagers may respond better to one-on-one chats, but eating meals together tends to encourage more natural conversation. You can also find other ways to bring the whole family together. Explore natural areas around your city, take up a leisurely activity together or try new sports as a family. Spending time outside will get the conversations going, and as an added bonus, you'll all benefit from regular exercise.
Teenagers hate being confronted directly, especially about problems or fears that they might be experiencing. As a parent, you need to take a proactive approach to getting information without intimidating your kids into shutting you out. Instead of interrogating or drilling them about their day when they get home from school, invite them to talk to you about the day in general. Keep the conversation casual. Even better, refer back to TV shows, movies or music that they know. This gives you talking points without the conversation turning into a grilling session:
Your kids are forming their own ideas about tough topics, such as what's socially acceptable or where the line is for certain behavior. As you discuss pop culture and their social lives, pay close attention to hints that they might be dropping about problems or concerns. Know when to stop pressing for the time being and when to keep pushing for more information.
You can't avoid some tasks, like the drive to and from school, the weekly to-do list, or shopping for clothes and school supplies. However, you can make the most of your time even if the activity is a chore. Here are some examples:
Teenagers are especially resistant to doing things that impede their personal time. Use these must-do activities to your advantage and get to know your kids better. Sometimes, doing mindless tasks, such as cleaning out the fridge or trying on jeans, can clear the mental roadblock that prevents your teens from talking about their lives.
If you're having trouble getting your teen to open up, lead by example. Talk about your day, how you handled different situations and what you had hoped to accomplish. When applicable, discuss your own experiences as a teenager. Kids need to see their parents for the humans that they are, so don't be afraid to talk about difficult subjects. You don't need to give them every dark detail about your young life, but you should be honest when talking about tough subjects, including sex, drug or alcohol use, and bullying. If your kids can trust you to be honest, they can trust you with their own burdens.
Maybe it's been a long day and you need to relax, but if your teen comes to you with a problem or concern, take the time to listen. Put your own stresses aside for the time being, and pay attention to what your kid is saying. When teenagers purposely seek out your attention, it's critical to be there for them. They may need advice, they might be struggling in math or may simply need to unload some fears about a social situation with someone they trust.
If you're there for them when they need you, they'll be able to come to you for all sorts of problems. Don't let your own problems get in the way of building rapport with your kids. If they can't trust you or don't feel like you're really listening, they may seek out comfort from other sources.
Effective communication starts with understanding. Your kids will check out if they think that you're just waiting to lecture, give advice or offer suggestions. Instead of jumping in with your own two cents, let your kids speak, and really listen to what they're saying. Avoid:
Your kids may be growing up, but you can still help them fight their battles. Instead of offering to talk to a bully's parent, write the teacher a note or get involved directly, offer to brainstorm with your child on ways to solve the problem. Develop a pros and cons list, and make sure to encourage your teenagers to find good solutions on their own. By fostering a proactive spirit in your kids, you can help them to think more critically about how to resolve difficult situations.
Finally, don't give up when the going gets tough. Your kids need you even if they won't admit it, and being there for them, even silently, will show them how much you care. As a parent, you have the right to set rules and expect your kids to follow them. However, it's important to create a bond of trust with your teens so that they feel comfortable coming to you for advice. If you truly listen to them, then you can offer support and guidance without coming across as overbearing and unreasonable.