Staying connected with your teenager can sometimes feel like a huge challenge. These are the years when they most begin to assert their independence and pull away from us as they fast flee their childhoods and seek to throw off the aspects of adolescence. There are ways, however, for you to maintain a secure bond. A lot of it has to do with shifting your approach.
Humans crave physical touch; it’s in our biology. Your teenager craves it, too. When they go through the transitional period from child to teenager, parental touch may feel weird as they not only become more in tune with their sexuality, but are suddenly uncomfortably reminded of cuddles on the couch with Mommy. Changing your method can make all the difference. Keep contact brief — think “drive-by” affection. Tousle their hair. Kiss them on the top of the head. Give them a quick squeeze and use reassuring touch. Don’t get handsy, but take a couple of opportunities a day to physically connect with your kid — just not in front of their friends.
Connect with their friends.
Make sure their friends feel welcome in your home, even if you don’t always like them. When you express disapproval for your children’s friends, they will take it personally. It’s as if you are rejecting an extension of themselves. These are the kids your child fits in with and therefore identifies with.
Greet their friends when they come to your house, and treat them as you would any guest. Offer them a drink or even a small snack. Take a moment to ask a few interested questions, and then back off and give them their space. Do not seek to implant yourself into their group, but certainly make a solid introduction each time the friend comes by.
Making your children’s friends feel welcome in your home not only wins you big mama points with your teenagers, but you would be amazed at how warmly their friends may respond. Teenagers are not often accustomed to adults taking genuine interest in them. You’re eliciting their cooperation and respect as well as your children’s.
Play with your teenagers, and laugh with them.
Hormonally charged teens can go from childish to serious quickly, and we’re not always sure why. Being a teenager is confusing and intense. You can lighten up those stressful moments with a bit of play time. Show them that you have a sense of humor, too. Make fun of yourself; make fun of them. Don’t be afraid that you’ll look foolish — do it on purpose! Tell a really awful joke, and when they look at you like you’re crazy, start laughing at the look on their face. Don’t try to be “one of them” by behaving irresponsibly, but show them that adulthood doesn’t mean all business all of the time, and watch them relax in front of your eyes.
Share with them.
My thirteen-year-old asks me every day, “What did you do today, Mom?” I know, crazy, right? Definitely not typical but a sure sign that we are well connected. I tell him what is going on with me, what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling. I keep it short and then ask him the same thing.
Parents don’t expect their kids to be interested in them, so they often don’t share their thoughts and experiences unless referencing them to lecture. What a perfect way to tell your children that they aren’t worthy of your association by holding out on them! Staying connected is a two-way street. You can’t expect your teenager to share with you if you don’t share with them.
Remember: You’re their parent, not their enemy.
Just because you can’t give into their wants all of the time does not mean you can’t be on their side. Too often, the parents’ role when raising teens is portrayed in a combative way. The common saying, “If they hate you, it means you’re doing it right,” sends the wrong message to parents who are already constantly questioning their decisions.
Anthropologically speaking, it is detrimental for progression of society when the children become defiant and rebel against their parents. This is not a necessary aim when parenting your teenager, either. You can set limits with your children’s safety and well-being in mind, but doing so with empathy and validation helps your teenager recognize your motives are for them, rather than against them.
Destany Fenton, Author of They Are All of Me
Destany is an artist who works from home while raising her four kids, who range in age from teens to littles. A self proclaimed cheapskate and “maker-queen,” her do-it-yourself attitude compels her to promote self-education, frugality, and taking responsibility for our global community. She is attentive to her children and works to foster and maintain a deep connection with each one, while finding harmony within herself and remembering to take time for her husband. When she is not painting, cooking, gardening, knitting or playing with her kids – even the big ones, she is blogging about her life at They Are All of Me, where she shares crafts, recipes, and crazy mama mishaps that are bound to crop up when living with pets, teenagers and little ones.