Sometimes, when children get older and approach their teenage years, it can seem like they turn into a stranger. Suddenly, your little boy or girl has transformed into a taller, more complicated version of themselves. Teenagers tend to focus more on their peers than their parents, but this doesn’t mean that they should entirely be left to their own devices. Nor does it mean that parents should involve themselves in every aspect of their child’s life, as the whole point of raising a child is to get them to the point where they can be independent.
So, a balance is needed between giving your teen the room they need to grow, while still keeping them safe. Another aspect that can make raising a teenager challenging is that many parents and teens struggle to communicate with one another, and it can be easy to drift apart. With this in mind, how can you maintain a close relationship with your teen?
- Learn to Have a Conversation
If you feel like you never actually talk to your teenager, think about why. When was the last time you both had a conversation, any conversation at all? More tellingly, what did you learn about your teenager? Were they worried or excited about anything? Do they have any specific interests? What
The answers to the last two questions are almost certainly yes. Think back to when you were a teenager, you can surely remember things that you were interested in, excited about, or worried about. Chances are, your teenager won’t tell you absolutely everything, and that’s okay, but you should know the broad strokes of what’s going on in their lives. If you don’t, how can you find out?
Well, you could try to find out by going behind your teenager’s back, or by interrogating them. But these tactics can result in your teen losing trust in you, and may make them less likely to want to talk to you about what matters to them.
Instead, why not try simply having an ordinary conversation with them? If they don’t want to talk about themselves, then talk to them about your own life. Yes, you don’t want to burden them with every little worry you have, but by opening up to them about yourself, then you’re more likely to encourage them to talk to you.
Most importantly, when your teens do talk, listen to what they’re saying. Even if their problems seem small to you, they might be huge to your child. You were a teenager once, so use your memories of how that felt to emphasize with them. Also, don’t feel compelled to solve all of their problems or to always offer suggestions. Teenagers, much like adults, sometimes just want to vent.
Open lines of communication between you and your teen are especially important when you consider that 20% of adolescents may experience some form of mental health problem in any given year. If you regularly talk to your teen, about the small things and the big things, then you can be more prepared to support them if they have such issues.
- Do Things They Enjoy
If you have conversations with your teen and learn their interests, then you might be able to spend more time with them doing something that they enjoy. Let them decide what to do. Every teenager has some kind of hobby or interest, and chances are that if you spend time in their world, you will understand them more. Relaxing with your teen is a sure way to connect with them.
For example, if your teenager enjoys video games, then ask to play a game or two with them. If they like single-player games, then ask to watch them play, or for them to teach you how. If they like films, then you can have a movie day with all the snacks.
There are some hobbies that you can encourage your teen to develop, as they have the potential to become skills. Many teens like taking pictures on their phones, so helping them to learn how to take even better photos might lead them towards developing photography as a skill. Even on phones, certain apps can allow them to blur background sections of their pictures to put the main subject into clear focus, among other tricks.
- Teach Them and Give Them Responsibility
While it’s nice to relax and chat with your teen, remember that you are still their parent. This means that it’s your job to teach them valuable life skills. However, you needn’t go about this by dogmatically telling them what they should be doing and ordering them to do chores without any clear explanation.
Rather, explain that these are skills that they will need throughout their lives. By including children in household chores, you can help them to appreciate what’s involved in keeping a house. You should explain this to them. Teenagers aren’t always able to see the bigger picture themselves and can resent being asked to do chores instead of being allowed to do what they like.
As well as basic chores, it might be an idea to include your teenager in other aspects of adult life. Teach them how to cook, sure, but you should also teach them how to budget and manage their finances. They will appreciate the effort you put into this, if not now, then in the future.
Another great way to prepare your teen for growing up is to give them a measure of responsibility or to encourage them to take it on. In recent years, more and more teenagers are harboring entrepreneurial aspirations. If your teen is one of them, then support their dreams and teach them the skills they need to develop.
If appropriate, then your teen may benefit from finding a summer job. Speak to them about the pros and cons of this decision, and help them to navigate this path. Each child and teenager is different, but there’s always something that you can do as a parent to help them to grow.