Sometimes it can seem like your teenage child is an alien from another planet. Their thoughts, ideas, outbursts of emotion, and wanting to be independent can make raising teenagers a challenge from time to time. Knowing how to connect and communicate with your teenager is the key to raising children who are productive and able to function well in the real world.
Children this age may think they are adults but they still need guidance and support whether they realize it or not. Helping you find a way to provide that guidance and support in a way that works is easier than we may think. Here are our 5 sure ways you can connect with your teenager.
Give Them Independence
Your teen is growing into an adult. As such, attempts at independence are normal and healthy if steered down the right path. Let your child choose what sports or CCA activities they want to participate in. They know what they like.
Forcing a teen to continue a CCA they hate tells them you don’t trust their judgment or care what they like, which in turn causes them to resent you and discard any of your suggestions. After all, if you knew someone didn’t care about your likes and dislikes, why would you respect their opinion?
If your child wants to do something you know is unsafe or dangerous, provide them with a safe alternative or have a calm discussion on why it is unsafe.
Love Them Even Though You May Not Love Their Choices
Love your child even though you may not love their choices. Unless something is distinctly dangerous or puts them at risk, leave it be. For example, your child wearing clothing that you do not approve of is not a big deal unless it is inappropriately revealing. Your child is developing their own personality and is experimenting with not only what they like, but also with how you respond to it. If your child wants to go to a party without adult supervision, that’s a whole other issue and you are totally correct to refuse to allow it.
Accepting your child for who they are is the foundation of a healthy relationship. They don’t have to like the same music, food, television programs, or clothing. You don’t have to like their preferences either. As long as their options are healthy and safe, let them be themselves.
Provide healthy and safe alternatives for unacceptable actions and keep an open dialogue about it. Instead of saying no and blowing up into an argument, give a reason for your refusal and an alternative.
Most things in life, they are hardly ever outright harmful or dangerous.
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For example, your child may want to start drinking even though you feel they are not ready. On one hand, drinking may allow them to feel that they fit in better with their peers and feel more adult. On the other hand, you may be concerned that they will overdrink or become addicted.
Strike a compromise by telling your child to text you when they are drinking, and to only drink with trusted people (other family friends/siblings), instead of outright banning it, and your child will be less likely to rebel and resent you.
Nagging or harping on an issue doesn’t work. As soon as the nagging begins, the listening stops. If your child is expected to have a clean room that doesn’t mean their room looking like a pigsty is acceptable, it just means that there are more effective ways of getting them to keep it clean than nagging about it. Good alternatives to nagging include positive reinforcement such as providing an allowance for rewards, giving a reward of extra time out with friends, or making them their favorite meal. If the behavior or task isn’t done, remove a privilege and don’t give the reward. Be consistent with your behavior.
Often, teenagers will refuse to do things just to exert their independence and when the nagging is removed from the equation they will often perform as expected. Communication is the key. Have a conversation where you clearly outline what you expect, outline the rewards, and outline what privilege will be removed should they choose not to do as they are asked. In fact, nagging is often counterproductive and backfires.
This gives them the option of choosing for themselves and that can go a long way. This can be applied to curfew, chores, respectful behavior, or to things like doing their best in school.
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Praise good choices and behaviors. Kids need to hear when they are doing things well even more than when they are not. While it is still important to address negative behaviors or outcomes, it is important to foster success and encourage your child to do their best.
Nagging your child is rarely a productive affair. Try other methods such as praising, taking away, or giving privileges.
Will You Be There When Trouble Comes?
Always be available to your teenager. If your child calls you at work or tries to approach you at home, take a moment and listen to what they have to say. If children feel like every time they approach you they get told that now is not a good time you could miss out on being able to make a difference.
You never know when something has happened that they need advice about or when something has gone wrong and they need your help or just feel the need to talk. If the timing is seriously not appropriate after you have heard what they have had to say, tell them you will discuss it with them when you get home or as soon as you are finished the important task and then stick to it.
Make sure you follow through and speak to them as they need to feel that they can rely on you, or they will feel betrayed and lied to.
Respect Them Like You Would An Adult
Respect is a two-way street. Respect them as an adult and you will get the same respect in return. If your child feels like you love and respect them and their choices they are going to be inclined to respond in kind. While there will be arguments from time-to-time, effective communication and keeping in mind that your child is an individual who has a right to have different ideas and opinions will go a long way.
For example, let them decide on the subjects they need for tuition. Forcing them to do something they don’t like is not respecting them. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to allow it, and you just have to be ready to sit down and discuss it and come to some sort of effective compromise.
Connecting with your teenager doesn’t have to be challenging. Just know the right ways to connect with them and soon you’ll see the difference!