If you are a parent to a teenager, you have not only heard the story — you experienced it first hand. It seems that overnight your child stopped looking at you, avoids your hugs, only talks in short sentences, and often does it while walking out the door. Despite the sense of distance they convey, you are the most important figure in your teen’s life. Keep that in mind when you feel your final energy drops are about to drain. As a parent, you are willing to dedicate a lot of emotional resources to communicate with your family, even if they are teenagers. Here is how to do that in three steps.
Listen before you talk. This is the most important step not only to start with, but to keep up throughout the conversation with your teen. You may want to take the conversation in a certain direction, but if you press them too hard they will shut down and you will accomplish nothing. Teenagers take time to formulate a thought or opinion, not to mention an entire character, and sometimes they just need to say something out loud to hear what it sounds like. Allow them to do that by being understanding as opposed to judgmental.
Find out what they like to do and do it together. Do they like to go to the movies? Go with them. Watch football? Watch it with them. Show an honest interest in their likes and dislikes. A joint activity can often be much more bonding than a conversation. But be careful of the pitfalls, and don’t try to be a part of every aspect of their life. In other words, allow for personal space.
Never betray their trust. You may not realize it, but teenagers watch their parent’s every move. They pretend not to listen, but they hear every word you say and compare it to the things you do. Their respect is not blind to your actions, so make sure you practice what you preach and be willing to admit when you are wrong.