Create Connections with Your Teen Now and In the Year to Come

Posted on December 15th, 2012, 0 Comments

I had just begun working on this post last Friday when my phone chimed with the horrific news alert from Newtown, Connecticut. Throughout the day, unspeakable updates kept trickling in. In these following days as the media is abuzz with additional information about the tragedy, we can help our teens and younger children by making a point to be available. We can let them guide our discussions with them by asking what questions and what concerns they have. We can help bring some balance to the violence by talking with them about the many, many helpers who responded to this tragedy with love, care, and bravery. By reminding our children that the world has lots of good people in it, even though a few people do terrible things, we can offer reassurance without giving false assurance.

Of course, with this heartbreak, we parents ache for the moms and dads of those twenty young children. We feel a natural urge to hold our own children of all ages a little closer. Yet holding our teens close – now in the aftermath of a tragedy and on a regular basis – is more difficult than when they were younger. As much as we parents might like to maintain the relationships that seemed to work so well during the first twelve years of their lives, our teens insist that things be different. In the spirit of growing up and developing their own identity, our teens demand more privacy and less physical closeness. This can be particularly true during early adolescence.

It helps if we remember that the diminished feeling of closeness is likely not rooted in a serious loss of love or respect between our teens and us. In fact, research suggests that the distancing effect of adolescence is temporary and that relationships can become less strained during late adolescence.

Here are some hints to help you create fun and connections with your teen. Consider adding some of these to your routine as you get set to launch on the new year:

• Make time to stop by your teen’s room just to chat and listen. Make it a habit to knock before going into their room.
• Pay them a genuine compliment – at least once a day.
• Notice when they enter the house or the room and greet them.
• Plan a menu and cook a favorite meal together.
• Ask for their help on a project.
• Go to a movie together, and do dessert afterwards to talk about it.
• Do a physical activity together such as hiking, biking, or skating. Invite one of their friends and the friend’s parent to join you.
• Read the same book and then offer to take them to lunch to talk about it.
• Choose a weekly show as “your show” to watch together.
• Strive to have 5 positive interactions with your teen for every 1 negative interaction.

Be assured that your connectedness to your teen matters. Research confirms that your connectedness gives your teen self-assurance, adding to their ability to withstand stress and negative influences. Your connectedness helps them develop reasoning skills. And it makes your teen more open to your influence and more likely to have values similar to yours.

Examples of research mentioned above: Collins & Laursen, 2004; Mounts, 2002

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