You want a close relationship with your teenager, but he seems to be pulling away more every day. Where he once turned to you, now it seems that he cares more about reaching out to his friends. When you do try to learn more about his life, you’re often met with accusations of “butting in.” So how can you keep relating to your teen while still giving him the space he needs?
Youth speaker and author Michael Ross (former youth pastor) says the keys to parenting a teen are love, relationship, and time. The following are some of Ross’ secrets for raising a teenager.
1. Show Your Love
Let your teen know how much you love him through actions, not just words. Discover what your teen’s love language is and focus on that. Whether it is showing affection or giving thoughtful gifts or even just giving an encouraging word, take the time to show your teen love in a way that is most meaningful to him.
2. Spend Time with Your Teen
In addition to your child’s love language, your teen will also recognize love as the time you spend with him and the time he spends with the family. He may fight taking part in family activities, but that time spent together will help keep him connected to you and other family members.
Also, try to spend one-on-one time with your teenager. Do something fun together – take him to a sports game or a favorite restaurant. If you have a daughter, take her for a manicure or shopping day, have a “slumber party” at a local hotel for a girls’ getaway; most importantly, choose something they will enjoy.
3. Listen, Listen, Listen
Let your teen know you are always available to listen to them. Ross suggests, “Say phrases such as ‘I’m always here for you’ or ‘I’d love to hear about your day.’ Don’t apply pressure, but let your teen know you are there for him or her.”
In addition, resist the temptation to railroad your teen with advice. Even if you have good intentions, hold back on giving a lecture, especially if your teenager is finally opening up. If you talk too much, your child will just tune you out. Instead, be a good listener and help your teen problem-solve with his own ideas.
4. Open Up
In addition to attempting to understand your teen, help your teen understand you. They may feel you don’t understand what they’re going through, so open up about what life was like for you as a teen. This might even make your child feel comfortable enough to share about his own life. And as difficult as it may be, Ross also recommends being open about your own weaknesses.
5. Become a Role Model
Ross says that sometimes teens don’t view their parents as role models because the teen thinks their parents are “judgmental and unconcerned about their lives.” Again, this is why it pays to be respectful toward your teenager and not condescending, even when you disagree. Teenagers also place a very high value on “being real.”
You can have a strong, open relationship with your teenager. Continue to show him love, keep relating to him even when he pulls away, and spend time with him on your own and as a family.
What creative ways have you found to connect with your teen?
*This article is based on information from the book How to Speak Alien: Invading Your Teens’ World Without Invading Their Space, by Michael Ross.