As teenagers become more independent, they often spend more time away from home, and when they are home they are often behind closed doors or focused on other things. It might also feel like your child is less interested in talking to you, but there are plenty of things you can do to maintain a strong positive relationship and stay connected with your teenager. Hint: It’s the little moments, not the big occasions, which can really count.
Listen to them. Make time to listen without judging or correcting. Aim to understand their interests and point of view. It can be difficult to hold back from giving advice, as you want to help your teen make good choices; but many parents find that the more they listen to and validate their teens’ experiences, their children are ultimately more likely to listen to accept guidance.
Keep it simple. You don’t need to have a deep conversation with your teen to connect. If simply asking how their day was only elicits a one-worded answer, try asking a more specific question, like what they did in English class that day or how their school band is preparing for their upcoming concert.
Schedule time together. Planned connecting involves scheduling time to do things with your child that you both enjoy. Busy lives and more time apart can make it difficult to spend fun time together. You could eat dinner together each night, when possible, to use the opportunity to catch up on the latest events at school, after-school activities, and friends. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn while sharing a meal together.
Be present. Try to focus on the moment when you are talking with your teen. Even if it is just for just a few seconds, try and give your child your full attention. Connecting works best when you send the message, ‘Right now, you’re the most important thing to me.’ Also, look at your teenager while they are talking to you. This sends the message that what they have to say is important to you.
Create a ritual. Maybe it’s going to the movies or visiting your favorite neighborhood bakery. Whatever it is, try to have a monthly ritual that you and your teen always do together. Making it the same time every month (for example, on the 15th, or the second Tuesday) will make your teen feel special and give them something to look forward to. While teens sometimes find it hard to admit it, they usually enjoy one-on-one attention, so try to make it a point to schedule regular ‘dates.’
Engage in their interests. If your child expresses interest in a new activity, show interest in it, and try it out together. Start following your teen’s favorite sports team, watch their favorite movie, or listen to a few songs by their favorite band. This will make it easier to engage them in conversation if you are talking about something they are truly passionate about.
It is true that during the time children are teens, parent-child communication often decreases, as children grow more independent and confide less in their parents. Still, using the above tips, it is still possible to maintain a strong and close connection and be in a better position to help guide them through their crucial teenage years.