I bet every parent on the planet will agree with me on this parenting teenagers is hard. In fact, my husband loves to say that teenagers are nothing but ‘walking hormones’ and I absolutely agree with him. Between the crying, the mood swings and the unpredictable behavior, teenagers can make you quickly lose sight of the kind of parent you set out to be.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
But first- before you start thinking that I have deciphered the magic code to an unproblematic relationship with your teenager, let me assure you that I have not. The only thing I have decided is a few ways to make these formative years a bit easier on both of you. So, without further ado, here are 5 tips on how to improve your relationship with your teen:
5 Steps to a better relationship with your teenager
Around the time my son turned 15, he suddenly became disinterested in having dinner with the family every night and for no apparent reason too. Perplexed, we wondered how to approach this issue with my husband. It seemed that the dreaded teen years were finally here. And although we were uncertain on how to proceed, I knew that we were basically walking out blindfolded into a minefield.
That is parenthood in a nutshell. We are all just wondering blindfolded in a minefield hoping to make it to the other side without having our legs blown off.
Fortunately, it is around the same time that I came across the book that changed my perspective on parenting teens. This book helped me realize that even how my parents had handled my teen years had greatly impacted my view on how to deal with my son. I also picked up five great tips that will help any parent to bond with their teenager.
1. Talk but listen more
As parents, we can talk and talk and talk even more without seeing the results we are looking for. When it comes to teenagers, remember that they have a mind of their own. They have feelings and the complex issues that they deal with every day.
The best way to keep an eye on your teenager is by letting them invite you into their world. You would be surprised by how many teenagers can be prompted to open up by just a simple, “how was your day?”
Once you get them talking, listen. Let them steer the conversation into whichever direction they wish. If they happen to mention something that piques your interest, ask them about it casually in order not to scare them off. A lot of teenagers shut out their parents for they fear you might not understand what they are going through or you may become overly critical of their life choices. So even if your teen lets it slip that they did something wrong, remember that a hasty reaction may cause them to clam up in future completely.
2. Establish fair but strict rules
It is pretty easy to blur the line between friendship and parenting. However, even if that is your approach remember that teenagers, just like children need structure in their life. Establish fair but strict rules. By doing so, you are showing your teen what is acceptable and what you will not tolerate. However, I have learned an interesting tip when it comes to enforcing discipline.
When your teen breaks a rule, you may be tempted to result to screaming or yelling at them. However, this serves no good. Most probably it will end up in a useless screaming match, and you will both just look crazy. Instead, there is a more intelligent way to approach this. When coming up with the rules also let your teen come up with the punishment to go with it.
Therefore, when they jokingly tell you that they will wash the dishes for a week for breaking curfew, you can hold them to it.
3. Spend time together
When was the last time you took your teen out for some ice cream or even to a movie? Teens just like children, love doing things with their parents even if they hide it behind an impervious façade. You can ask your teen what they would like to do and then do it together. The thing about spending time together is that it does not need to be an expensive activity. Even a simple action such as going on a bike ride together every Saturday or playing a game of cards every so often is an excellent way to bond with your teen.
4. Eat meals together
So, while my son had decided that he had had enough of family dinners, I came up with a trick to get him to enjoy them once more. Every Thursday, we prepared dinner together. On these days, he would be the one to come up with the recipe for whatever he wanted to make. With our help, he’d prepare dinner and afterward, we would sit together to eat it. Eventually, he started coming down for meals on his own. It felt like we had dodged a bullet.
Make it a point to eat together with your teen. Mealtimes are great for unwinding and talking about the day.
5. Be honest about your past and experiences
While a lot of parents may not agree with me on this, I have always thought it is pretty important to let your kids know the real you. Of course, you don’t need to tell them about how many liquor shots you used to do in a row. What I mean is open up to them about your teen years and early adult years. Teens can really benefit from understanding a bit more about their parents. I especially find it useful for talking to them about the relationship between you and your parents to help them gain some perspective. This is a proven way of bringing them closer to you naturally and lovingly.