Ways to Connect with Your Teenager
Parenting isn’t easy. But then again, nobody said it would be! One of the most difficult factors of parenting is that it goes beyond simply trying to give your child the tools they need to succeed and making sure they live healthy, fulfilling lifestyles, but you also want to be able to relate to them, as people. Parenting goes so much further than just be an authority figure. If your children don’t feel like you can understand them or the things that they are going through, then it can get in the way of the relationship that we all want to have with our kids. This means that our kids have to be able to confide in us. Here are a few things to remember if you want this kind of relationship with your child…
Having the kind of relationship where your child can confide in you means that you have to dismantle the image of you as an authoritarian dictator that so many children see their parents as (while still remaining in charge, of course). The first key step to doing this is to make your conversations actually that: two-sided conversations. This means that you can’t simply talk at your child and expect them to take what you are saying to heart. You have to actually listen to what they are saying and consider things from the point of view of how they see the world. Remember, our children don’t have the same life experience that we have, but they also are free to see the world from another perspective.
Don’t Be Judgemental
The biggest roadblock that can get in between a child and their parent is fear. This fear can come from many places, but one particularly potent contributor is a shame. This is why we have to be very cautious with the cadences that we use to communicate with our children. In particular, being judgemental towards your child will build a wall that makes them afraid to come to you when they are struggling with issues in their life. For this reason, always have an open mind when talking to your child, and never approach any issue with a reserve of judgment that can damage your relationship.
Pick Your Battles
None of this advice means that we can’t be stern with our children when the time calls for it. However, having this be the go-to tone with which we communicate with our kids can set a dangerous precedent that can damage any relationship-building that is crucial to raising them. This is why being a parent means that you have to recognize when you need to put your foot down, and when you have to use a softer method with a child. The rules that you make at each juncture of their life, such as when they start driving, should be carefully considered with your boundaries and their well-being in mind. Learn to pick your battles, and everything else will seem a lot easier.
Always Build Trust
At the end of the day, know that your child is listening to you. If you want your child to confide in you and trust them, then you need to continually let them know that they can. Communication is a two-way street, but you can go a long way towards your child trusting you by continuing to communicate well, even when they are not. If you do this, even if your child doesn’t seem to be responding, they will come to you when it counts.
Understand Their Age
Remember that there is no universal method to raise your kids when they are growing up. They will change, and so must the way that you communicate with them. In particular, age is always going to be a major factor in the ways that we talk to our kids. You wouldn’t talk to a five-year-old the same way you’d talk to a 17-year-old, correct?
Our kids grow up fast, and sometimes it’s hard to watch, but trying to always remember where they are in their development can help us have a relationship with our kids that is deep and fulfilling. Teenage years are when so many people start to forget this, as many kids start to have more difficult personalities as they are figuring themselves out. Another important thing to remember is that past trauma experienced by your child will impact their ability to communicate about certain topics. This is something to note on a case-by-case basis, but it is important to be aware of.