04 Jun How to Connect with Your Teens in 2019
Any parent knows that when the teenage years hit, parenting gets a lot more complicated. Many kids withdraw or become moodier, and all of a sudden Mom and Dad are “annoying” and “embarrassing.”
This is perfectly normal. In an age of eyes constantly glued to phone screens and friends to talk to just a few clicks away, it can be hard to compete. However, there are easy ways to get your teens to open up to you and connect in a meaningful and lasting way.
Getting Involved in School
Every family has their own family culture when it comes to school and schoolwork. Some parents help with every homework assignment and check in on grades regularly while others prefer a hands-off approach. Regardless of which category you fall into, it’s important to think about how your teen is responding and what they really need.
One student might feel that having their parent sit down with them for every homework assignment is a critique of their abilities. Another might be perfectly happy to have their parent help them every day (and possibly not putting in enough work of their own). A third kid may need help but be too shy to ask.
When it comes to school involvement, it’s important to find a middle ground between being too invasive and not helpful. As a teen, school is one of the central things that life revolves around, and it can be frustrating.
Instead of asking “how’s school?” and perhaps getting a “fine” in response, try asking what your teen found interesting that week or if some classes seem harder than others. A simple, specific question can allow a teenager to vent about how struggles and celebrate success. Better yet, a conversation about biology class could lead to you helping out with a science project at home!
School can be an issue of tension in a teen’s household, but it doesn’t have to be. As a parent, there are many ways you can be a resource and a confidant.
Discussing Grown-Up Issues and Making Your Teen Feel Important
One of the main things that make the teenage years so hard is the process of becoming an adult. This means more independence and freedom, but also more responsibilities and worries. Being stuck in the middle ground of childhood and adulthood can be confusing and frustrating, and through it all teens desire respect.
Many teens may seem rebellious or rude, but respect is a two-way street. An essential way to connect with your teens is to give them the respect they need, and a good path toward this is to start teaching them about adult life. This is not only a way to foster mutual respect but also is crucial in terms of setting them up for success later on.
Letting your kids in on financial responsibilities can be a good first step. This doesn’t have to mean giving them an allowance or having them think about future jobs, but these are all options to make your teen think more about the way they function in the world.
A kid who learns to save a little bit of money early is much more likely to be financially independent sooner, and successful in the long run.
It may seem uncomfortable or strange to have conversations about money or jobs in the early teen years, but it pays off. Not only will your teen be more informed, but also respected and treated as an equal.
Your moody teenager may also be more understanding of why it’s not feasible to have a fancy dinner every single night or go to Disneyland every few weeks. In this way, you’ll be connecting with your teen and teaching them valuable life lessons, doing it all with respect.
Teaching your kids a useful skill can also combine the concepts of respect, connection, and setting up for success. Whether that’s encouraging your teen to play a musical instrument, teaching them how to code, or having them help you use the grill, learning a task grants benefits down the road and can also serve as great bonding time.
The Phone Issue
The smartphone is one of the most significant things that can get in the way of relationships at home. Connecting with your teen can be hard when you feel like you’re playing second fiddle to Instagram.
Family dinner is sometimes the only time where the whole family can be together, and many of the conversations mentioned above will end up happening there. A phone would distract from engagement with family. It’s important that parents set the example here and also never text at the dinner table, making it a universal rule for everybody.
Dinner is also ideal for this because your teen will be enjoying a meal and will be sufficiently preoccupied with that. You’ll likely be met with much more opposition and resentment if you have their phone taken away when they don’t have much else to do or need it for their homework.
In the words of Todd VanDuzer, CEO of Student Tutor:
“The smartphone is an incredible device that opens up tremendous learning opportunities, especially for kids. However, the capabilities that make it such a useful tool are also those that can make it a great distraction from the real world. Finding a balance between positive and useful phone use, entertainment, and no phone use at all is a tricky task. However, if parents and their kids manage to strike a good balance here then everybody benefits long-term.”
Every family has to figure out how they handle screen time and access to the internet, but it’s important to set boundaries when it comes to family-specific time. Putting phones away at the dinner table is a good rule of thumb for teen households when you want to break into this concept.
Let Them In On Your Life
Letting them in on your own life may be the most effective and important way to connect to your teens. Teenagers can often feel like the adults in their life could never have been teens themselves. Consequently, as a teenager, it can feel like your experience is unique and no one really understands you.
It’s on parents to show their kids that they’ve gone through this turbulent time as well. Sharing a story from your own childhood, college, or even your current week at work are all ways to engage with your teen around the dinner table or in the car.
By telling a good story that can be relatable, you might start a conversation or get to hear more from your kid’s own life. The more of yourself you give in conversation and the more you’re willing to share, the more your teen will reciprocate.
Teenagers are one of the hardest age groups to parent since they are too young to treat as adults but too old to lecture like children.
Finding balance and developing mutual engagement and respect by getting involved in their academics, including them in adult decisions, limiting screen time during family events, and letting them in on your life is a great way to start.