As your teenager matures, it is quite natural for a bit of distance to grow between you. However, even if your teen does not verbalize it often, he/she does still need you and will benefit greatly from a close, connected relationship with you as his/her parent.
Here are 10 ways you can maintain a close connection with your teen, and continue growing your relationship through communication, love, and fun:
- Give your teen love freely and unconditionally, always.
No matter how they behave, always give your teen love freely and unconditionally. Teens look to their parents as role models of successful adults, and will learn how to love themselves and others through your example. Even though you may not know it based on teenage behavior sometimes, your teen is looking up to you as a hero in their life. According to a 2015 poll conducted on StageofLife.com, when teens were asked who best resembled an “unsung hero” in their life, the number one answer was “Parent.”
- Listen and offer to help troubleshoot problems without judgement.
One of the best ways to encourage and grow a close connection with your teen is to always listen to them when they talk to you and open up. Listen carefully and actively, but let them finish speaking before you offer suggestions, advice, or help with problems they are expressing.
- Let your teen have freedom and room to grow.
There is a delicate balance between being involved in your teen’s life, and becoming overbearing or smothering. Unless your teen is giving you signals otherwise, extend them trust, arm them with good virtues and firm guidelines, and then give them room to grow and experience life, even if it means they might make mistakes.
- Send your teen text messages
According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of teens indicated that text messaging was the main medium they used to communicate daily with their close friends. While this does not mean you should not call your teen, it will help you connect with them in a whole new way if you embrace the way they like to communicate.
- Become friends or follow your teen on social media
Teens also do much of their communicating through social media, so by becoming friends or following them on online channels, you can get more insight into the person your teen is becoming and who is influencing them. Being aware of your teen’s online communications will also help you make sure they are interacting in safe, healthy ways.
- Talk openly with your teen about dating and sex.
Talking about dating and sex with your teen should not be awkward, uncomfortable, or shameful. Instead, communicate openly about the values of respect, love, and intimacy. You should also be very open about the prevalence of STDs and teen pregnancy, so you can help your teen make good choices and stay healthy and safe. Encourage your teen to talk about the pressures they might be feeling or experiencing, so you can help them navigate through those times as well.
- Support your teen’s hobbies and passions by showing up to special events or games.
Teens with involved parents do better at school and get higher grades, no matter their socioeconomic status, according to US News and World Report. Showing your teen that you care about what they love to do is much more impactful than telling them. Make sure that you adjust your schedule whenever possible, and attend their special events or games to show that you support them in their passions and hobbies.
- Give your teen a hug every single day.
Hugs provide comfort, decrease stress, and foster a sense of well-being. Give your teen a hug every day, and let them know you love them and care about them.
- Support healthy friendships, and include friends in your family life.
Friends are very important to teenagers, and by supporting your teen’s healthy and fun friendships you can become closer with your teen. Host a dinner or game night for your teen and his/her friends or let your teen bring their best friend on a family outing or activity. This helps you be involved and support friendship and fun in your teen’s life.
- Create rituals that foster time together and make it special and fun.
Connecting with your teen can be a lot of fun for you both through shared time, rituals, and activities together. Try some of these things with your teen, and make rituals out of your favorites:
- Read the same book, and discuss it when you both finish reading.
- Find a charity you both care about, and volunteer together.
- Learn something new together, and let your teen pick the activity.
- Ask your teen if you can join them in their favorite workout.
- Watch a weekly TV show together.
- Go on a hike, bike ride, or enjoy the outdoors together.
In order to remain connected with your teen as he or she grows and becomes increasingly independent, it is important for you to understand and implement these ways, and others you can think of, to keep a strong relationship intact with your teen.