Many parents are searching for ways to spend time and connect with their teenagers. Sometimes it seems like teens are from another planet (dabbing, anyone?), but it's so important to put the effort forth now so they trust you enough to talk to you when those tough situations arrive.
On social media, everything seems perfect. Because of this, we get a LOT of questions about parenting. One of the questions we get asked most frequently is “how can I have a great relationship with my kids as they get older?”. While we don't have all the answers, I reached out to Jenelle's friend, Stephani, who is helping me with this Teen Bonding series. Having an “inside” perspective from another 15 year old is gold to me. Jenelle and I talk quite a bit, and she seems to be pretty honest with me. I know everyone “thinks” they know their teens, though, so I am not one of those parents who thinks they know everything about their teenagers. It's important to find a balance with everything.
I got pregnant when I was 15. One of THE most important things to me is that our daughters know they are loved and don't feel the need to go out and make crappy decisions as teenagers. I know “teenager” and “crappy decisions” kind of go together, but we just want them to be safe, ya know?
5 Ways to Connect With Your Teenager
Let them know you love them. Saying “I love you” is free and takes about 3 seconds. Hand it out like the world is going to end tomorrow. Hug them, give them that big embarrassing kiss on the cheek, shout your love for them across the school courtyard. A parent’s love is one of the only constants in a child’s life, let that be known. You’re not perfect, and neither are they, but you still have a bond that will last forever. In the toughest moments, you both are going to need each other to pull through. They might get tired of hearing you say it, they might not say it back every time, and there might be a few times that they tell you to stop. However, when it comes down to it… they’ll remember that you were always there, telling them you loved them unconditionally.
Be curious about their endeavors. If your teen is overly passionate about something healthy for them, encourage them and try to become passionate yourself. You might even be brought back to your own childhood. I love bonding with Grace over photography. We got matching cameras and really enjoy exploring together. We also enjoy bonding over books (like 13 Reasons Why – great book to start a serious conversation). A teen’s hobbies will stick around throughout their life, and if you’re a big part of that hobby, you’re sure to be a big part of their life. Be an inspiration, a supporter, and that one mom screaming from the sidelines at the soccer game (even if they're “just” a cheerleader). They’ll appreciate it in the future, and it give you both something to talk about. I talk more about this in my motivate your teen post!
Talk. Ask questions, crack jokes, tell stories. Communication is super important when it comes to any person and person relationship. Nowadays people are lost behind tiny screens. Technology is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but texting isn’t as sentimental as face to face communication. And it never will be. Talking to your teen is beyond crucial to having a good relationship. If you can get them to laugh and smile with you, you’re doing great. You’ll never know who your teen really is if you let them hide behind their phone or laptop. It’s amazing how much you can miss about someone who lives right there with you when you don’t actually make the effort to connect with them. There’s so many stories that people have to share, no matter their age and enthusiasm evaporates over text. You can learn just as much from your teen as they can learn from you. In person, you get a much better feel of who a person is and who they really want to be. The eye rolls are sure to come, but don’t let them phase you. At least you’re getting a reaction!
Check out my 60 Mother Daughter Date Ideas!
Make time for them. The most valuable thing you can offer anyone is your time. Your children are deserving of that. As people grow older, they grow apart. However, it’s important to always remain close to your teen. Parents are the most important part of anyone’s life. Whether they’re around or not, you learn a lot from your parents, and as much as some people hate to admit, you're likely to turn into them. ;) Spending time with your kids in general is a great way to build an everlasting bond and teach them good habits simultaneously.
Remember that you’re their parent. Although you might want to be your teen’s best friend, you have to keep in mind that you’re an authority figure. Most teens don’t need another friend, they need you there as a parent – to teach them, to love them, to help them grow. Don’t mistake your bond for a friendship, it’s much stronger than that.