I have about three months of parenting experience so far. At first a child’s needs are fairly straight forward. She needs to eat, sleep, be cuddled, and have her diaper changed. I’m just now getting the hang of it the majority of the time. However, my experience working with many families suggests that just when you get these basics down, the needs change. Being a parent means keeping up with changes faster than you ever expected. By the time they are teenagers it means trying to keep up with their complicated lives, relationships, technology, and activities. Frankly, its never been harder.
My observation, which researchers confirm, is that the parent/child relationship is one of the most crucial factors in how teens fare through their adolescent years. So while life is faster and more complex than ever before, parents can help. Staying connected with your teen allows you to know more about what’s going on, to be effective setting limits, and to be a teacher of life lessons.
Young people tell me all the time that they would like a better relationship with their parents. Its never too late to improve on your relationship with your teen. I can tell you that they listen closely to what you are saying (even if they don’t look like they are) and will give you points for effort (even if they seem unappreciative).
Here are some ideas that you can start using today:
- One-on-one time. Implement a cell-phone and computer-free time each week to do something together. Go get ice cream, go for a walk, do a craft, bathe the dog, play a game, bake pies- whatever works.
- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. On long car rides or snow days or whenever you have the opportunity to spend time with your child try to listen to whatever they have to say. Ask questions, seem interested. Try to listen three times as much as you talk.
- Show up. When your child is doing anything that is positive whether its a sport, math team, poetry reading, or school play, be there. It doesn’t matter how big or small a role they might be playing. You showing a genuine interest in what they are doing matters a lot.
- Dream together. Talk about the future and listen to what they want. Be supportive and help them understand the steps that help them get where they want to go.
- Eat together. Implement the now old-fashioned family dinner as much as you can.
- Talk about hard stuff. Your kids want to know what you think about sex, drugs and rock n roll. Give them information and help them form their own strong values.
- Laugh. Model having fun in ways that don’t involve drugs and alcohol. Find ways to make humor and lightheartedness part of family life.
- Ask. Ask questions whenever your teen gets home from school, friends, sports. Show that you care about what’s going on.
- Notice the positive. Verbalize your excitement, happiness, and pride when your teen makes good decisions or does something well.
- Love on them. Just like when they were babies, teens need love. Its one thing that doesn’t change through the years. Gush about how much you care, love them, and are proud of them.