Are You In Tune With Your Teenager?

teens_parents_istock_000003860067sma-fullWhile working with teens I’ve noticed that there are certain differences between those who are doing well academically, socially and mentally and those who aren’t.

For the most part, teens that are doing well have parents/guardians that show interest in them and their ideas and actually listen to them.

Teens who are doing well report that they feel connected to their parents/guardians, not only because they show an interest in their teens, but because their parents/guardians take time to  find out what is going on in their lives.

Of course this makes sense, because teens who feel connected to their parents/guardians have more at risk when it comes to making decisions or taking risks.

When these teens are faced with risky decisions such as using a substance, skipping school or having sex, they are more likely to think about how their decision will affect their parents/guardians and their relationship with them.

These teens don’t want to disappoint their parents or lose their trust and are more likely to be open to their parents advice, compared to teens who don’t feel connected to their parents/guardians.

Teens who don’t feel as connected to their parents/guardians or don’t believe that their parents/guardians are genuinely interested in them, are more likely to take more risks without thinking about the consequences those risks may have on their relationship with their parent/guardian.

They are less likely to be interested in school, to be open and honest with their parents/guardians, to be well-adjusted or to avoid the many traps that await them as teenagers.

When parents are responsive, connected and supportive with their teens, it makes it easier to tackle some of the tougher issues such as discipline and setting rules/boundaries.

Even if you are a really strict parent, your rules won’t receive much lasting respect from your teenager, unless they also believe that you care about them.

I meet parents everyday who are strict on their teens, but their teens have major academic and discipline problems outside of the home. When I sit down with these families, it’s usually clear to me from the start, that they are not connected.

A large part of my job then becomes trying to bridge that gap and create a connection between the parents/guardian and their teenager.

It’s not enough to simple parent a teenager, and you don’t have to be their friend, but you have to engage them, connect with them and make them feel supportive.

You can take advantage of everyday opportunities to connect with your teen, such as while watching television, driving to/from school, dinner time or even setting specific times for a “date” with your teen.

Find out what’s going on in your teen’s life. Make sure to ask questions about their activities and interests. It may seem strange or even uncomfortable at first, but with time it will become easier and feel more natural.

Connecting with your teen may be harder than you expect, depending on the nature of your relationship. Some teens can be tough to get through to and are resentful or argumentative.

The teen years are largely about trying to find independence, so it’s only natural that your teen will challenge things you have taught or are trying to teach them as they try to form their own identity.

Your teen may think that you are being nosy and initially become resistant if you haven’t had a good relationship before this, but be genuine and eventually they will respond in-kind.

Don’t give up however. Chances are they are listening, even when you think they aren’t, and they will remember the lessons you are trying to get through to them. Keeping your messages brief will help with some of that resistance, as teens generally don’t like to be lectured to.

Learn to understand your teen through observing them and learn to respect your teen by listening to what they have to say.

Some other things you can do to foster a close relationship with your child according to

  • Spend time together regularly, doing things your teen enjoys
  • Talk openly and honestly
  • use positive communication skills, especially when there is conflict. For example, think before you speak and acknowledge your teen’s point-of-view so he or she knows you are listening.
  • Acknowledge the positive qualities and behaviors of your teenager.

A quick self-check includes:

  • Do you praise your teen for accomplishments, even the small ones?
  • Do you spend time each day talking with your teenager?
  • Do you regularly have meals with your teen and other family members?
  • Are you familiar with your teen’s favorite interest and hobbies?
  • Do you know your teen’s friends?

As I stated in a previous post, the teen years is not the time to stop parenting your teen, but your role as a parent changes just as your child changes from a kid to a young adult. They still need your guidance and for you to effectively guide them, you have to be connected with them.

3 thoughts on “Are You In Tune With Your Teenager?

  1. Parents or guardians definitely have a huge impact on their child(rens) lives, but I do believe other adults do and can as well.
    Teachers, other adults in the school setting, coaches, instructors, a good friends parent can be a resource of support as well and provide the needed and necessary connection and response a teen is looking for.
    What has changed over the years is 2 parents working, families are further apart due to moving out of necessity for employment and taking care of older parents, meaning a family might move to care for the grandparents.
    What I would love to see is adults taking an interest in the teens they work with, live with, care for or teach. An adult has a chance to make a difference in a teens life.
    Adults were all teens once and also lived through times where difficult decisions had to be made; party or not party, drugs, alcohol or not? Stand up for yourself or cave to peer pressure?

    1. I totally agree with you. Trusted adults play a major role in nurturing teenagers and more adults need to step up and be more active in the lives of the teens in their world. I thought about that as I wrote this post but wanted to focus more on parents. I will keep that in mind for future posts 🙂 A lot of times as adults we may not realize the opportunities we have to positively affect the lives of the teens that are around us or that we work with like you said. Your comment is much appreciated, thank you for your guidance and thoughts.

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