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6 Ways to Connect with Your Teen

The teenage years can be a difficult time for parents to connect with their children, who are experiencing greater independence and relying more on relationships outside the home.
If it seems difficult to connect with your teen, take heart: these 6 tips will help you create the conditions on your end for a supportive relationship. 
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
1). Be Attentive to Their Mental Health
Life as a teen is filled with new challenges. Interpersonal relationships become more complex than they were before, and with puberty comes romantic attraction and all its attendant hopes and heartbreaks.

Additionally, many teens are far more conscious of their appearance and their status relative to their peers. With all of these pressures, it is easy enough to see how teens often struggle with depression and anxiety.

For parents, the challenge is often a matter of trying to connect and make a difference. It can be emotionally difficult for parents, not least because so many of us remember what it was like to be a teen and long to impart the wisdom gained from all the years we have lived since then.

It’s important to be attentive to your teen’s mental health with a genuine desire to listen and acknowledge their feelings.

You may find it easy to see the cognitive and emotional mistakes your teen is making, but it is important to listen and take their problems seriously. The heartbreak of being rejected by a crush, for example, may be emotionally painful to your teen in part because it is a new experience. Take the time to listen to them, and understand they are probably feeling insecure about how worthy they are of being loved.

Give your teen enough space to feel grief or process, but not so much space that they become isolated and shut away. Pay attention to any talk or behaviors that may point toward self-harm. If need be, consider taking your teen to a professional mental health therapist for teen anxiety treatment or counseling for depression.

2). Encourage Socialization at Home
Being a teenager is a time for young people to stretch their wings and achieve more independence than they had as younger children. Their friends and peer groups start to displace the family as the main sources of social activity. They also discover romance and dating – and, after a certain age, driving.

For many parents, this can be a fraught, difficult time, as they get used to their teens becoming more grownup. However, this is precisely why it is such a good idea to encourage socialization in the home.

Turn your home into a welcoming, inviting place where your teen and their friends can come over and hang out after school or on weekends. Invite your teen’s friends over for dinner, and maybe put on a game night on the weekend.
Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels
3). Family Dinners
In addition to inviting your teen’s friends over, you can establish family dinner time as a way to promote togetherness for the whole family. Your teen doesn’t have to be present every evening, particularly if they have work or dinner at one of their friends’ homes, but try to insist that they participate some of the time.

Family dinner times can be a good opportunity for everyone to reconnect, relax, and share experiences. Your teen may not always want to be present, but try to gently but firmly insist that they be present some of the time.

4). Make Time for Them One-On-One
Family dinners are a wonderful way to connect with everyone, but particularly if you have a larger family it may also be a good idea to schedule some one-on-one time with your teen.
Whether you do lunch, dinner, or an evening hike at a nearby park or other area, try spending some time with your teen and encouraging them to talk about whatever is on their minds. Ask them how their friends are doing, how they like their classes, and talk about anything else that seems relevant – their interests, hobbies, things that are going on with them.

5). Take Interest in Their Activities and Hobbies 
It’s also a good idea to encourage your teen to be active, to get involved in healthy activities like athletics, fitness activities, and various hobbies.

Take an active interest in your teen’s activities and encourage them to keep going even and especially when the going gets difficult – as it always does in any worthwhile endeavor.
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels
6). Help Them Plan for the Future 
We’ve talked before about getting your teen to talk about college goals, and this speaks to one of the more important ways you can help your teen: take the time and effort to help them plan for their future.

Whether or not college is in your teen’s future, make sure you spend time with them helping them to work through the all-important questions about their future career and life goals. They’ll thank you later.

Relationships are a two-way street, and that becomes ever more true of the parent-child relationship during the teenage years. While you can’t control how your teenager responds to your efforts, these 6 strategies should help you create the best possible conditions for encouraging rapport. 

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