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Connecting with your teen can be difficult...
…We can help! Look, sometimes connecting with your teen can seem as fun as saying ‘thank you’ for a root canal, but it is a very important and vital component of their well being, and integral to the fabric of your family life.
We all know that bonding with your teenager starts way before they reach adolescence. Ideally it should start when they were new and full of promise and potential, back when it was easy and you were their hero.
But here in the present, things are quite different. You might feel like you’ve been through a rough simulation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and are now forced to conduct your life around someone whom only faintly resembles that cherub you once swaddled.
Before you go file a missing person report, let’s summarize the importance of connecting with your teenage son or daughter. Being aware of challenges we face in today’s world, and learning to adjust our expectations and form habits that are conducive to good communication are vital. Your offspring will thank you. When they’re 25…but still.
Momma's boys and Daddy's girls...
A healthy connection is crucial to your developing child, even into the precarious teen years. Children that have regular interaction with a father are found to have greater success socially, academically, emotionally and run a lower risk of being overweight. These benefits also follow children who are more likely to be at a higher risk for behavioral issues, into the educational forum. They are found to have better reading scores, less behavioral issues, and if the father is active with school volunteering the statistics for A+ grades increases significantly.
Being engaged with their father finds teens better in social situations, and boosts their confidence and self-esteem. So dad, set up some one on one time with your son or daughter. Go on a date, play catch, or just get goofy together. You’ll find that not only will your relationship become more powerful, but your kids will be more confident and feel better about themselves. Power on Dad!
One study showed that boys with a closer relationship with their mothers found a multitude of benefits. Among them was better performance in school accompanied by better articulation, less likelihood of engaging in risky behavior, better self-image, friendships and less inclination towards anxiety and depression.
Connecting with your daughter is equally important and can prevent risky and dangerous behaviors by showing her she doesn’t need to look outside of the home for affirmations of worth and care.
What Does A Good Relationship with My Teenager Look Like?
We all have ideals of what it would be like to live in the “perfect family”. Yeah, you saw those little quotation marks. Obviously, life can greatly differ from what we imagine, and what we really end up with. Gone are the days of Wally and the Beaver and the familial Hollywood utopia. Suddenly you find yourself Googling “staying connected to your teenager” while you’re waiting for them to come in after curfew, yet again.
Here are a few tips that might help:
If a teen suspects criticism or condemnation there’s going to be a shut down faster than a bank on a national holiday. So what do you do? Well, if you feel like you are nagging, you probably are. No one (not even you) feels like producing their best behavior when motives, energy level, and priorities are always called into question to be picked apart like a frog in biology class.
A no-pressure platform can help build trust that you are still a safe haven and an emotionally secure place to fall back on. Even though they might not use the opportunity to talk as often as you’d like, being able to talk if they feel the need is a great comfort in this jumbled time of sorting through themselves.
Bottom line: let them know you are open to listening.
Throughout your child’s younger years, hugs and kisses and snuggles were a prime source of reassurance when they needed boundaries or attention. Even though it can seem awkward to express affection for the teenager before you, who is now more man or woman than a child, touching and affirming that you’re there for them if they need it, is just as important as ever.
Because each child has his or her own personality, the amount and type of touching may be more or less, but should always be noted. Monitoring could be necessary as well for the giver if you are not naturally inclined to touch, or perhaps are more of a giver than the child is comfortable with.
Boys, in particular, are harder hit when it comes to the famine of physical touch. Believing it is childish, they pull away in an effort to define themselves as “manly” or mature. This can also be why a breakup of a first love is harder on young men. Sacrificing physical touch with their parents have created a physical and psychological need – and thus a body or touch-hungry individual.
You don’t need to go overboard and smother your child. Anything from a shoulder squeeze to a goodnight kiss, pats on the head or a full-on hug….Just be aware of the physical needs of your teen. If you are there to supply it whenever it’s needed and every chance you get, you can dramatically change how you relate to your teen.
Quality (and Quantity!) Time With Your Teen
It’s often said that quality is better than quantity. Well we say, make the most of what you have!
Find natural times to spend time with your son or daughter. You don’t have to insert yourself into your teen’s life against their wishes or make outrageous demands on their time. Especially if you want great results.
Finding different ways to spend time with your teen may be as easy as taking advantage of the normal activities of everyday life. Some examples could be:
- Cooking and eating together
- Chores or volunteering for a shared cause.
- Go shopping! Let them know the spending limit and make sure it is something they want, not you.
- Learn something together. Ask them, “What have you always wanted to learn how to do?” or “Is there something you’ve never done, but would like to?”
- Letting your teen have you for an unplugged hour or afternoon for whatever they want to do (cue the relaxed openness!)
Spending time with your child can open up a new avenue of shared interest and create meaningful communication with your teen and a connection that they aren’t quick to put aside.
Bonding with your son or daughter involves a decent amount of communication as well as quality and quantity family time. One-on-one activities teach you and your child about who they are and where they fit into this great chaos we call life.
Though suggestions given here are best seeded when children are young, don’t give up hope! They are still applicable to today and all the gnarly situations you find yourself wading through with your ever-changing teenager.