Currently, I have three teens in my house! My oldest will be turning 18 in September, then comes 15, then 14. It’s been fun navigating the life of teens, especially when it feels like I was a teen not so long ago myself! However, life as a teen in 2021 is a lot different than it was for me in 1999 and the early 2000s. With more bullying going on, social media a huge part of their daily lives, and the whole friendship dynamics seemed to have changed dramatically over the last 20 years as well.
Sometimes it can be hard to connect with your teens especially if they are going through things, which a lot seem to be during this pandemic.
It seems obvious but letting your teen know you love them is the first step in creating a relationship. Saying “I love you” is free and takes about 3 seconds. Hand it out like the world ends tomorrow. Hug them, give them that big embarrassing kiss on the cheek, shout your love for them across the school courtyard.
A parent’s love is one of the only constants in a child’s life, let that be known. You’re not perfect, and neither are they, but you still have a bond that will last forever. In the toughest moments, you both are going to need each other to pull through. Your teen may get tired of hearing you say it, they might not say it back every time, and there might be a few times that they tell you to stop. However, when it comes down to it, they’ll remember that you were always there, telling them you loved them unconditionally.
Be curious about their endeavours. If your teen is overly passionate about something healthy for them, encourage them and try to become passionate yourself. You might even be brought back to your own childhood. A teen’s hobbies are sure to stick around throughout their life, and if you’re a big part of that hobby, you’re sure to be a big part of their life. This isn’t true for all hobbies, of course – some will come and go.
Be an inspiration, a supporter, and that one parent screaming from the sidelines at the soccer game. They’ll appreciate it in the future, and it gives you both something to talk about.
Talk to your teen. Ask questions, crack jokes, tell stories. Communication is super important when it comes to any personal relationship. Nowadays people are lost behind tiny screens. Technology is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but texting isn’t as sentimental as face-to-face communication – and it never will be.
Talking to your teen is crucial to having a good relationship. If you can get them to laugh and smile with you, you’re doing great. You’ll never know who your teen really is if you let them hide behind their phone or laptop. It’s amazing how much you can miss about someone who lives right there with you when you don’t actually indulge yourself in them.
There are so many stories that people have to share, no matter their age and enthusiasm. All of that can evaporate over text. You can learn just as much from your teen as they can learn from you. In-person, you get a much better feel of who a person is and who they really want to be. The eye rolls are sure to come, but don’t let them phase you, at least you’re getting a reaction!
Make time for your teens. The most valuable thing you can offer anyone is your time. Your children are deserving of that. As people grow older, they grow apart. However, it’s important to always remain close to your teen. If you have more than one teen, be sure to carve out one-on-one time with each of them whenever possible.
Spending time with your teens is a great way to build an everlasting bond and teach them good habits simultaneously.
Remember that you’re their parent. Although you might want to be your teen’s best friend, you have to keep in mind that you’re an authority figure. Most teens don’t need another friend, they need you there as a parent: to teach them, to love them, to help them grow. Don’t mistake your bond for a friendship, it’s much stronger than that.
Setting healthy boundaries is part of being a parent, and is another way you can strengthen the connection you have with your teen. While the “you’re the worst parent EVER!!”s may flow when you first start setting boundaries, they will thank you later when they have matured into responsible, respectful adults. Okay, so it’s not always that easy, but teens need healthy boundaries. You aren’t doing them any favours if you let them run all over you because you’re afraid to make them upset.
Keep an eye on your teen from a distance if they start to pull away. Never force your teen to sit down and talk to you for extended periods of time if they’re pulling away – this can just make things worse. Simply letting them know you’re there for them is key.
If you notice your teen starting to pull away, don’t just assume they’re being a normal teen and are fine. While not every teenager suffers from depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, those things are prevalent in this age group. A therapist who specializes in adolescents can help if you feel your teen may be dealing with issues you’re not equipped (or being allowed) to handle.