07 Aug Creating Connection with Teens
The developmental changes that occur in our children during adolescence and the teen years present unique elements to family communication and parenting. As a family therapist, mother, and stepmother, I am drawn to the complexity of this time and how we can be more intentional in our parenting to promote better connection and understanding.
The teen years present an interesting interplay between the need for young people to learn independence, and their need to stay safe and connected to family. The question becomes how can we help our adolescents and teenagers stay in touch with the values and commitments that are important to our families, while allowing them the space to learn responsibility and independence. This is a time for them to gain confidence in making decisions and taking care of their own needs in order to prepare them to manage themselves as young adults in their communities.
Here are a few thoughts on how to keep conversation and connection going during these years:
Listen more and speak less. Remain curious to your teen’s thoughts, ideas, hopes, and dreams – even if they differ from your own.
Highlight the positive. Teens are in the vulnerable process of establishing a sense of identity, and they need to be confirmed in their accomplishments to promote self-worth.
Be consistent! Name and model the household values/expectations, state the reasons for them, and the consequences if not followed.
Realize that your teens will make mistakes, and grow them into learning opportunities.
Teens are driven by emotion – come alongside them and acknowledge their feelings.
Be intentional in how you are speaking and responding to your teens. Learn what legacies you wish to pass to your children and what legacies you wish to leave behind.
Let them know they are loved. As much as they may seem to push you away, they still desire connection. Renegotiate the level of closeness and be open to new ways of doing things.