It is inevitable that children grow up. Once kids hit adolescence we can expect to see less affection and a greater desire for independence. This is completely normal and does not mean that you can’t stay close to your teenager.
We uncover some practical tips to stay connected to your child through adolescence:
- Encourage independence
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it is absolutely necessary to allow your teen to enjoy some independence. Glenn Roisman from the University of Illinois reminds parents not to take it personally when teens want to keep their distance because you are entering a new phase of your relationship. They’ll come back to you when they need it.
- Show interest in what they’re doing
When parents demonstrate genuine curiosity about their child’s passions, they are more likely to establish strong connections. The more you understand and appreciate your child’s interests, the more you’ll have to talk about. By showing interest in what your teen is doing, it opens up more opportunities to spend time together – you may even develop mutual hobbies such as playing sport or enjoying outdoor activities together.
- Pick your moments
Though your teen may brush off the conversations you initiate, there will be unexpected times when they feel especially vulnerable or overwhelmed. They may not ask for it, but in these moments, they will appreciate a hug or a reassuring arm around their shoulder. Be available when your child does want to talk – and give them your full attention. If you take a phone call mid-conversation, it sends the message that you don’t care about them.
- Listen and empathise
Keep your advice to a minimum, regardless of how beneficial or well-intended you believe your counsel is. When you offer unwanted advice, you give the message that your teen cannot solve their problems on their own. Be patient in conversations. When you chime in at every point, you may actually push them away. Be willing to tolerate moments of silence as your child reflects, and trust that communication will happen at the right moment. Michael Thompson, clinical psychologist and author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys says a practical way this can be done is by asking finite questions. You might ask something specific like, “what was the best or worst thing that happened in school today?” If you ask a generic questions like “How was your day?”, you’re more likely to receive a vague and non-specific response.
- Practice unconditional love
Every person’s journey is different. Regardless of the mistakes your child makes, it is important that you support them and love them throughout the process. When they know that you are always available and will not judge them, they will initiate conversations with you that will naturally build strong connections.
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