Navigating the world of parenthood can sometimes feel like a minefield. There are more than a few children’s’ growth stages that can leave you feeling like you’ve just come off the battlefield, but none more so than the teen years. Everything can be going along swimmingly and then suddenly one wrong step and boom, the relationship with your teen can seem to be on the brink of destruction.
Between the hormones, and stresses that teens face in the modern world, it’s no wonder that there are so many highs and lows. As a mom to two teens and a preteen, with two more close behind, I’m still learning so much about how to navigate these always trying years and have discovered some tricks that help me make the most of those fleeting moments I have to connect with my teen.
One great way to connect with your teen is to bond over a TV series. It may seem like such a small thing, but having a show to dish about over dinner the next day can open the doors to longer and more meaningful conversations.
Find a hobby you can do or learn together. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you both are enjoying yourselves. My oldest and middle daughters both love coming with me on photo shoots. I hand them the Fuji X-A2 and let them hone their skills while soaking up every minute of their engagement with me as they ask questions and show me their captures.
Take one on one time to the next level by booking a staycation. Spend a night at a budget friendly hotel, and plan to be a tourist in your city for a day or two. It’s easy to get sucked into day to day life at home. Booking a night off away from home for the sole purpose of fun is a sure fire way to make a connection. There are no piles of dirty laundry to taunt you and no homework to be done, just one on one time allowing your teen the chance to open up to you. To make sure you capture one of those fleeting moments leave the phone tucked away except for emergencies.
Other ways to make sure you don’t miss moments is simply by paying attention. When your teen says they need to talk, set down the phone, turn off the TV and make them your whole focus. If you have other kids set them up with a show, or technology and take the conversation to another room.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as parents is not letting go. I know how hard it is to watch your baby take their first steps into adulthood, but it’s so important to stop treating your teens like children. Give them responsibilities, and trust their judgement until they prove otherwise. Set boundaries and expectations, but be reasonable with them and allow your teen to stretch those boundaries as they explore what it means to be an adult. Also know that they will revert from time to time and need those snuggles so be present in those moments.
One tenet I live by is “Pick your Battles”. There are two things that I decided early on in my parenting journey to let go of, how my kids choose to dress themselves, and how they like their hair. As children, and teens it can feel like they have no control over anything in their lives. Teachers tell them what to do, parents control much of their free time, and friends are pushing them in yet another direction. Giving your toddler or teen the freedom to express their moods and personal style in these ways lets them regain a sense of control and helps them develop in so many other ways.
Be silly around them. This is probably one of the most important ways to connect. Let your older children see you as a real person who has a good time. It’s so easy to stay stuck in our roles as cook, cleaner, chef and chief organizational officer. Teens especially need to see that Mom and Dad can put serious stuff aside and jump into the deep end of the pool with a big splash.
There’s no reason to dread the teen years. They are short lived, can have moments of pure joy, and once you are on the other side you’ll be glad you made the most of the moments you had together. They will be the groundwork for the relationship you will have as they become adults and will likely be the framework for their personalities as they move away from home.
Previously published at Just Me, Julia.