It’s completely natural for teenagers to prefer the company of their peers to that of their parents. But teens do need your guidance and they need to know that they can rely on you. One of the biggest challenges of parenting teens is walking the fine line between “being there” and “nagging.” Here are a few tips for creating natural opportunities to connect with your teenager without forcing yourself on them.
Identify Opportunities, then Act
I remember reading in a magazine about a mom who had said that her teen tends to come home late and grab something to eat. She quickly discovered that those quiet times in the kitchen, when everyone else is asleep, create great opportunities for conversation. She started making herself available by simply being there in the kitchen while he was there. Her mere presence often started him talking about his day, his thoughts and his worries.
Driving together also provides a great opportunity to talk, especially because the lack of eye contact makes your teen feel more comfortable and less defensive.
Love What They Love, Or At Least Pretend To
Hate their music? Try to listen to it anyway. Better yet, develop a taste for it. In my experience, if you listen to a song often enough, you will eventually learn to at least tolerate it – so give their music a chance. Liking your teen’s music is one of the best ways to make her feel closer to you. I’ll never forget my mom humming to herself one of my favorite songs, back when I myself was a teen. I was completely in awe and felt really close to her. She actually liked “my” music!
Use Their Tools
Technology is a big part of your teen’s life. You should make yourself comfortable using the tools she likes to use. She may hate face to face talks, but feel very comfortable texting or instant messaging. Learning to use these tools (your teen can probably teach you how to use them!) will open up new ways for you to communicate.
Show You’re Interested
When your teen does open up to you, show interest. Stop what you’re doing and really listen. If he says something you disagree with, be very careful about your response. Responding harshly, freaking out or scolding your teen may make him shut you out for months.
Parenting a teenager is no doubt challenging. But keeping the communication open can make a huge difference in how your teen – and your family – survive these difficult years.