One day you may turn around and realize you really haven’t seen your teenager in a few days. Maybe you’ve passed in the hallway a few times, but that guy or girl who used to be joined at your hip is now so busy with his or her own life that nearly a week has gone by without there being much of a conversation between the two of you at all!
It is right for kids to become more independent as they move into their teenage years, and it also means you’ve done a good job as their parent to help them feel confident enough to step into a life of their own. However, it’s still critical for parents to stay close to their teenager’s emotional well-being. This is a time when kids begin to have intimate relationships with people outside their family, but they still rely on the ones who love them most to be dependable safety nets they if they run into problems.
Here are some ways to continue to maintain close relationships with your teenagers in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable.
Listen to them
In my experience, the best way to get my teenager’s attention is to open my door and wait for him to come and talk to me. When he does make an appearance, give him (or her) your undivided attention! Ask questions, keep the conversation light and fun, and enjoy your time talking together. If your teenager introduces a topic that is troublesome, don’t freak out! Stay calm and keep asking questions. Let him or her know you are a safe person to talk to. Allow them to vent if they need to and just listen without commenting. Read their signs to see where the conversation is heading and go in that direction. The more pleasant you can make these conversations, the more often they will happen. The more often they happen, the more information you will have about what’s going on in your kid’s life.
My teenagers love to eat! If food is in the equation, they are there. You can make sitting down together for a meal a special time for the family, and whether you do it five times a week or once a week, it will mean a lot to everyone there. Whether you eat at home or dine out, this is a great time to catch up, share stories, and strike up a conversation about any family business that needs to be discussed. This should be a safe zone in which your teenagers feel comfortable opening up and having adult conversations with parents.
Show Interest in Their Interests
Our interests and our teenager’s interests are oftentimes wildly different. Even so, it’s important to show them that what matters to them matters to us, too. I have found that putting away my phone and giving the kids my undivided attention to focus on anything THEY want will light them up! They crave my undivided attention and love when I am interested in their interests. It is wonderful to watch their excitement as they show me what really matters to them. Even if I may not be extremely interested in the topic, I am very interested in the person. Taking just a little time out to connect in this way can go a long way to keep you close.
I Love You, Man
No matter how cool teenagers are, they still love and crave affection. You can connect with your teenager every day by saying, “I love you,” and checking in with them. Text them just to tell them how wonderful they are. Send a funny picture with a memory you both share.
I have teenage sons and have seen this from a boy’s and their Dad’s perspective as the boys have learned to do yard work, fix things, and even help build a mountain cabin with their talented Father. Working together can really make your relationship stronger. Struggling and learning together can bring you closer. This also works with everyday household chores. The kids may not like it in the moment, but if the family is working together to make the house nice, everyone feels like part of the team.