The teen years are a developmental time when children begin to distance themselves from their parents and families.
This is necessary and healthy.
But sometimes the emotional distance can become too extreme and you will feel the need to reconnect.
Your job as a parent parent is not an easy one: to allow your child to grow an independent sense of self, yet remain close enough to provide support and guidance when needed.
As your teen grows in maturity and independence, keep 8 these ideas in mind to help you reconnect when the distance grows too great.
- Encourage appropriate independence. Teens are searching to find their own identity. This may mean making choices that you find strange or shocking, or it can mean changing rules to fit their growing autonomy. It’s importance to balance independence with behavioral expectations to keep your teen safe. A teenager’s frontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps them make decisions and allows for impulse control, is not fully formed until the age of 25, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, so try and help them when they are making dangerous choices, but allow them freedom when it’s appropriate.
- Recognize when your teen needs you to be closer. The teenage years can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Some days your child wants nothing to do with you, other days they talk your ear off and you feel like you can’t get a moment’s peace. When they are seeking connection, do your best to provide it, and if they withdraw again, realize that this is all part of the process of growing up.
- Lay off the lectures. Sometimes the fewer words that are spoken, the better. At this age, consequences speak volumes. If your teen knows she broke curfew and knows the consequences that are in place, she doesn’t need a lecture. If the problem is serious and needs to be addressed with a conversation, it helps if everyone involved is calm. Allow your teen to be part of the discussion. Even if you as the parent have the final word, teens need to feel like they are heard.
- Be positive, in both actions and words. When the day has ended, it should be a goal of yours to have said more affirmative words and engaged in more uplifting and positive experiences than negative ones. This is great advice not only for your teens but for other members of your family as well.
- Listen without judgement. It’s tempting to want to give advice or express your negative thoughts, but when your teen comes to you and wants to talk, your job is simply to listen at that moment. You’ll be amazed at how much more your child will say when you say less.
- Choose your battles wisely. You cannot and should not make every disagreement into an argument or fight. It is perfectly fine and healthy to change the rules as your child gets older and to reconsider some ideas of yours, and to talk with your teen about disagreements. Like in many other relationships, compromise is often appropriate.
- Don’t forget the power of touch. A hug or a hand on the shoulder can be a very positive way to connect with your child.
- Have fun and enjoy one another in ways that are meaningful to both of you.
Connecting with a teenager can be difficult; they experience the world in a different way and have a unique outlook on life. Embrace the journey, with all of its ups, downs, and crazy turns.
Keep your sense of humor and remember that, above everything else, it is the connection with your teenager that matters most in the end.
photo from Shutterstock