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“I can’t connect with my teen. We are from two totally different worlds. It is hopeless.” These are all phrases I have heard from parents when it comes to connecting with their teen. As a mom to five I kind of understand, but it has also taught me what I need to do and I want to help you when it comes to connecting with your teen.
No, the two of you are NOT from different planets or worlds. What you are though is from two different time periods? Things have changed in the past 15-20 + years since you were last a teen, unless of course you never outgrew your teen years and that could be a whole other issue. Things have changed but you were once a teen, so think back to how you felt. You starting to see something here? That’s right, this little nugget of truth is actually the stepping stone (common ground) to learning about connecting with your teen.
Do you have something in common? Yes, of course you do. The first thing is you have been a teen. You get what they are going through and maybe you can offer up advice. But remember, you didn’t always want to hear it from adults either. You shut them out, think of how you would’ve preferred it to have been. Try doing it that way. Did you always want your parent to nag you? Yell at you? Be your friend?
Find a Common Ground:
Do the two of you share anything both of you like? For my teens we did from television shows, reading genre to even certain hobbies. When I sat down and really thought about who they are and what they liked it opened so many doors of communication between my teen and I. Together we were able to discuss what we thought of books we read, which movies/television shows we liked and watch them together. How many of you can say your teen liked to invite you to the movies?
Activity: Learn what your kids like and see if there was ever a television show/movie that is similar to the one they currently like or want to watch. If you have Netflix flip through, find it and call them in. Tell them you’d love their opinion on a show. At the end of the show you’ll be able to discuss it. If it is a series, see if they want to continue to watch it with you. No matter how many times you watched this as a kid, this can definitely help bond you. My teens wanted to watch “Girl Meets World” I made them watch two episodes of “Boy Meets World” and of course they wanted to watch the entire series. I loved this because I watched at their age and couldn’t wait to share their joys/frustrations. Together we are watching both shows and talking.
If you still aren’t connecting with your teen try asking them questions. Some time between those adorable cute elementary school years to the pre-teen ones you stopped talking. Maybe it was by accident, you just let them be or life got super busy. That’s fine, it doesn’t mean you can’t open up the gates and learn about those little adults in front of you.
Activity: I love having a dinner discussion. Every night (or select a certain night everyone must eat at the table) we gather around the table and we begin by asking one positive and one negative that happened to everyone. We learn a bit about everyone’s day, if someone is having trouble or not. This is the best place I have found to open up a dialogue with your teen.
Questions you can ask- What are they are passionate about? Why are they passionate about said thing? Ask them what they want to be in the future. Get them talking. What’s their favorite childhood memory? Why? Yes, it may feel like 20 questions but it’ll give you that olive branch you desperately need.
Their Opinion Matters:
When trying to connect with your teen remember to let them know their opinion matters. Instead of you constantly making a menu for the month plan, try asking what they’d like at least once a week. Give them a voice, it’ll show what they want matters too. Try having them cook a meal or a dessert with you. Cooking with your teens can be a lot of fun, laughing, food fights, or just hanging out together and creating something can help to connect with your teen.
Activity: Find out what meals he/she would like to make or cook with you and get the ingredients. Cooking can be a lot of fun.
Hang Out with Your Teen:
That’s right, you read that. In order to connect with your teen you need to spend time with the. Find out something they like to do. Is your daughter/son into drawing/painting? If so there are a ton of classes out there you can sign the two of you up for. Wine & Canvas tends to have something every weekend, they also have a cookies & canvas. Make sure if you are picking a day the two of you have free you aren’t bailing on them at the last minute.
If your child is into sports, maybe take them to a game. Or really throw them a curve ball and try a few. Batting cages can be fun, mini golf and of course bumper cars. Keep in mind your teen still likes to enjoy the fun stuff too, just like you do.
Yes, you really can re-connect with your teen. Just because they are mini adults does not mean communication must stop. This is the time it is most important to connect with them. They are ready to learn more, experience life and are ready to listen even if they or you don’t believe it. What you teach them now they will remember. Think back to all the times you were a child. Heartbreak, trends, friends, moving away, graduation….these are all things you’ve experienced and can lend advice towards. You can comfort them when they need it most. Opinions are something they are forming more of, it’ll be like making a friend for the rest of your life. Now is the time to toss them that phone cord. Listen. Learn. Communicate!