It’s inevitable. No matter how great of a parent you are, as soon as your child becomes a teenager they strive for independence and begin to pull away. The good news is, it’s normal.
I’ve had so many conversations with parents who feel they’re losing control of their kids ever since their kids hit the teen years. They anguish over the fact that their kids don’t share information about their daily lives nearly as much as they used to, their kids aren’t home as much, and when they are home they spend most of their time in their rooms. This holds especially true for boys.
If you’re like many parents, (myself included), you’ve tried regaining control of your teen by putting up a fight. You forced your child to talk with you even when they were clearly not in the mood, you forced them to stay home when they would rather hang with friends, and you forced them to spend “quality” time with the family when they would much rather stay in their room and text or call friends.
Let me start by saying, I’m a huge proponent of family time. I’m guilty of putting the hammer down on my kids on more than a few occasions when I felt they needed to spend more quality time with the family. What I have learned, however, is that the best way to get your teen to actually enjoy talking with you and spending time with the family is to allow them to have some control over when and how often.
I know it’s frustrating but, not only should you expect this behavior at this stage in your child’s life, you should actually be somewhat proud. You’ve spent the better part of your child’s life teaching them how to become independent and now that they’re finally showing real signs of independence you should be relishing in the fact that you taught them well. I know… it may not feel like much of an accomplishment and you’re definitely not happy about the fact they don’t seem to need you (or want you around) as much anymore but don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Now that your child is a teenager, the rules of engagement have changed. As parents, we just need to find new ways to stay connected to our kids without invading the much-needed space they crave. Most importantly, we need to avoid fighting these changes, which will ultimately create animosity and potentially push your teen even further away.
Here are three things you can do today to improve your relationship with your teen:
Stop Taking Their Behavior Personally
This is something I can’t emphasize enough – something that took me years to get the hang of. Quite often parents take their child’s desire for freedom and alone time personally. Although it may take a while to get used to, your child’s growing need for space and privacy is quite normal. As opposed to fighting the change, remain calm, respect their privacy and keep in mind that this transition is a necessary part of growing up.
Find new ways to stay connected to your teen on their terms and give them your undivided attention when they are ready to talk. Carve out time to take them to breakfast, lunch or dinner – just the two of you. Plan an afternoon at the movies. Ask them to go shopping at the mall or another store that they might find interesting. Listen to music together, plan a day to cook your child’s favorite dinner together, help them rearrange and update their bedroom, plan a hiking trip… the list goes on and on. The idea is to carve out a little time each day to talk and connect with your child doing something they enjoy on their terms. Don’t force it.
Today’s teens have a lot on their shoulders. School is far more challenging today than it was when we were growing up. Social pressure coupled with expectations to be involved in sports, clubs, volunteering and, depending on the age of your teen, the expectation to hold down a job as well, can really take its toll on even the most well-organized and well-rounded teen.
Take the pressure off. Give them the freedom to be a little lazy at times, to sleep in, to lounge around or have that three-hour Netflix marathon to take a breather from the pressures of daily life.
If you have chores you need your teen to take care of around the house or tasks that they need to get done, make a list, put it on the counter and tell them specifically when you expect them to be done. Allow them to complete the chores and tasks on their terms as opposed to you nagging or yelling at them to get it done on your time frame. Teenagers are pretty emphatic about managing their own time. You can fight it all you want, but it will typically cause conflict. Your best bet, unless it’s something absolutely critical that must be done promptly, is to give your teen plenty of advance notice when you want or need their help with something or if they have a task that needs to be completed by a specific deadline.
Let Your Child Know You’re Thinking of Them (Often)
Being the parent of a teen is a game of hit or miss. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and have a great conversation with your child over breakfast, the next day you can’t get them to make eye contact with you. One of the best ways to stay connected to your teen and improve your relationship with them is to find little ways each day to let your child know you’re thinking about them.
Simple things like sending them a short text asking them what they’d like for dinner, having their favorite snack ready when they walk in the door after school, leaving a chocolate bar on their desk with a note, purchasing them tickets to a movie they’ve been wanting to see, buying them a new pair of warm socks when the weather changes or taking the time to clean their room when they’re totally stressed out from studying.
It’s all about the little things. Show your child, despite your own busy schedule, that they are a priority in your life and that you love them (even when they aren’t quite so loveable) and are willing to go out of your way for them. Teenagers are notorious for “acting” like they don’t need their parents, but in reality, they need us far more than they’d ever admit.