Many parents feel like when their children grow into teenagers that they have a harder time connecting with them. Being a parent means always being there for your children, and that includes when they get into those messy and emotional teenage years.
Creating a healthy relationship takes intentional work, so it’s important to think through all the ways you can build those opportunities. Depression in teens is common and the closer connection you have with your teens, the more likely they are to come to you during hard times. This can help you identify signs of depression to get your teen help when needed. Here are some of the best ways to create a connection with your teens.
Teens Need Connection
The need for healthy, positive connections among adolescents is understated. Teens need connection not just with their peers, but with their parents and other healthy adults in their lives. In a world where teens are more connected than ever, it can be easy to feel as if you’re fighting an uphill battle in your attempts to build positive relationships with them. But the truth is that teens need connection just as much as adults do—and they want it even more.
If you want to create healthy and lasting bonds with your teen, the best thing to do is to be present and engaged in their lives. This means that they need you to put your phone down and listen to them. They need you to come to their sports games and art shows. They need you to show up to parent-teacher conferences even if you get good grades.
The other thing you can do to foster a healthy connection with your teen is to help them find their place in the world. Let them explore hobbies and things to be passionate about. Listen to their big ideas without trying to “bring them back to earth.” Hear their hearts.
Do Things With Them That They Enjoy
It’s easy to do things you like. But it takes sacrifice to go to things that you don’t really enjoy. As a parent, do things with your teen that they enjoy whether you do or not. It’s a great way to connect with your teen and help build trust over time. If you and your teen are close and have a strong relationship, chances are they’ll be more willing to open up to you when it’s time for real conversations.
Listen to some of their music. Watch movies together at home or in a theater. You can also take walks around your city or town together. Maybe go on hikes in the woods. You could also play board games or video games together at home.
Ask your teen’s open-ended questions. Instead of asking them yes or no questions, try asking those that require more than one-word answers. This will encourage them to consider their thoughts and feelings, which will help you build a deeper relationship with them. You can also ask questions that encourage them to think about their beliefs and values as they grow older, so they’re not afraid of discussing these things with you when they grow up and get out of the house.
Listen to What They Say
If you’re going to ask questions, you might get answers, and when you do, be careful to listen to what they are saying. Listening is the key to good parenting. Listen with an open mind. Don’t judge or interrupt your teen’s thoughts because you disagree with them or think they’re wrong. Listen without judging or correcting them as they speak, no matter how much it pains you not to jump right in there with your wisdom.
Don’t Criticize Them or Try and Correct Every Little Thing
Getting your teen to open up is not easy. But if you want them to trust you, then you need to make sure your words are filled with love and grace, and not constant correction. To a teen, being corrected all the time can feel like criticism and makes them feel unworthy. Address behavior that needs attention but learn to let the little things go. If they fold the towels the wrong way or fill the dishwasher less than full, simply be thankful that they did it and move on.
Realistic expectations can include knowing that your teen is not going to be a straight-A student, or an elite athlete or musician. You know they will make mistakes and mess up sometimes, and they are in a safe space to make those mistakes with you around.