We all know being a parent is hard, especially to a teenager. Discover how you can better connect with your teen today to build a stronger relationship for the future…
Being the parent of a teen is not without its difficulties. It needs a lot of patience and a whole lot of understanding – something that can be in short supply when you’re dealing with mood swings. What we tend to forget at times is that being a teenager is also extremely difficult, especially during these unprecedented times. Cast your mind back to your own teenage years and remember the angst and worries you once felt. Now through in the added pressures of social media, body-shaming, a global pandemic and the uncertainty around education. It’s no wonder today’s teenagers – and we, the parents of teens – are struggling.
So, how can you and your teen meet in the middle? Try these helpful tips to improve your relationship with the young adult in your life. But first things first. We need to keep three key points in mind at all times to make this a success:
- START FROM SCRATCH
Forget everything you think you know about your teen and approach this with an open mind, almost as if you’re meeting them for the very first time. Teenagers change constantly as they make their way through puberty and we often rely on past judgements of their character to make current decisions. Scrap that. Try to remember that parenting a teen is an ever-changing landscape and you may have to get to know your teen over and over again. Think about it – does your 16-year-old step-son, for example, still exactly mirror his 13-year-old self? That’s highly unlikely. As your teen changes and grows up, it’s important we move with them.
- TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE
Whether they’re chatting about their school day or ranting about a so-called-friend, be sure to listen. Your teen has come to you to vent their troubles and so anything that might seem small to you really does matter to them. Encourage your teen to open up by asking them the occasional question or simply asking “Is there anything I can do to help?”.
- BE HONEST
If you don’t know the answer to something or are totally at a loss for what to say; say so. Your teen will respect you far more for being honest. Try not to promise things you can’t deliver, no matter how tempted you might be. Be straightforward, clear and completely sincere at all times.
Ready? Let’s try some of these bonding exercises today:
Ask your teen to teach you all about something they’re interested in. It could be absolutely anything – COD, Minecraft, a band they like or TikTok. The subject doesn’t matter. The point of this is to get to know your teen, to see what makes them tick and to ultimately bring you closer together. There’s no greater feeling than seeing your teen come alive as they explain something that gives them joy.
Start a weekly ‘date’ with your teen. You can find something you both enjoy or take it in turns to choose the activity. Whether it’s a movie night, a walk on the beach or a pamper session, this quality one-to-one time will give you and your teen a chance to talk in a relaxed environment.
Exercising together is a great way to bond with your teen. Hit the gym, take a power walk or try a YouTube exercise tutorial from the comfort of your own home. Working out together will reinforce the feeling that you’re a team – a joint force to be reckoned with.
Does your teen rave about a certain show but it doesn’t really sound like it’s your thing? Give it a go! You might not particularly enjoy it but it’s a great insight into your teenager’s mind. Plus, it will give you both something to talk about as you discuss the latest episode or dissect a cliff-hanger ending.
Cook A Meal Together
Team up with your teen to prepare dinner (their choice, if it helps to convince them to grab an apron!) or do an at-home Bake Off challenge. Working together in tandem and overcoming any kitchen mishaps can bring you closer together. Keep a light humour and brush off any potential messes – it can always be cleaned later.
Redecorate or reorganise your teen’s room together. A teen’s space is sacred. It’s their safe place and they cherish their privacy. See if you can help them to manifest their ideal bedroom. It doesn’t have to be a costly makeover or huge decorating job. Simply adding a few cushions, reshuffling furniture or hanging a few posters can make all the difference.
Did you keep a diary when you were a teen? Or do you have any awkward, embarrassing photos of your teen self? Showing your teen a couple of your diary entries (if you’re willing), or images of when you felt at odds with the world can be a great way to let them know that you once felt exactly as they do now. That you too were once a young adult trying to find your place in the world. Warning: be prepared for the inevitable, “OMG, what were you wearing?!”.
There will always be bumps in the road ahead so don’t beat yourself up if your teen refuses to engage or the activity ends in an argument. Try again another day and see if a different activity will spark their interest or help them to open up.