Seeing eye to eye with your child can often be a challenge, especially with teens. They are growing up fast, becoming more independent, experiencing mood swings and discovering new interests. The things you used to do together to strengthen your relationship may need to be updated. As they get older, it can be difficult to get one on one time and even when you do get it, they often don’t jump at the chance to talk to you about the things they may be struggling with or going through. What works for one family may not work for another so it’s important to focus on the things that will benefit you and your child’s relationship. So how can you break through and continue to feel connected with your child?
Approaching your child when they appear to be receptive to talking and/or listening can drastically affect the outcome of your conversations. Teens and pre-teens often have a wide range of moods and it can be difficult to predict when they are in the headspace to open up or take advice. But it will likely be counterproductive to catch them at a time when they are upset or exhausted and try to force them into a serious conversation. They will likely be closed off to hearing what you have to say and could then develop a negative association with these types of conversations.
When you find yourself in a situation where your child is looking to open up to you, ask them what they are looking to get out of this conversation. Do they want your advice? Or are they just wanting someone to listen? If your child is just looking to vent, bombarding them with your two cents could do more harm than good. Having the green light to give advice means they are in the headspace to be receptive and will not dismiss your input.
Children often avoid seeking out their parent’s advice out of fear. Fear that they will be disappointed, fear of an uncomfortable situation or fear of judgment. To avoid this, focus on creating a space free of condescending comments and questions. Don’t make your child feel like you are looking to catch them in their mistakes or taking these as opportunities for a teachable moment. Be receptive, respectful when giving advice and always remind them that you love them unconditionally.
As your child’s hobbies and interests continue to change, it can feel like a full-time job keeping up. But, showing interest in the small aspects of your child’s life can make a big difference. They feel seen, heard and valued when the people in their life remember the little things they are interested in. This will also give you more to talk about with your child. Simple conversations asking them what video games they’ve been playing, if they have met any new friends or what their favorite fashion trend is could get them talking and teach you so much about your child!
Maybe you and your child used to spend hours throwing the baseball around in the yard but now they’ve grown up and lost interest. Do you both enjoy art? Is there a movie you have both been dying to see? Or do you both enjoy lazy days getting to eat your favorite snacks? Whatever it may be, begin to prioritize making this a part of you and your child’s life. This gives you some guaranteed one-on-one time and creates the potential to really connect with one another.
Keep in mind that these things do not guarantee that your child will unload every detail of their life right off the bat. But over time, they may begin to feel more inclined to come to you when they need advice or need someone to listen. Based on past conversations, they can trust that your intentions are to benefit them always. This can lead to a more open and honest relationship, allowing you to gain that deeper connection you have been longing for!