As a mum of a teenager I'm always checking in on how we are both changing to help build a new relationship.
Once I completed the mourning stage of saying farewell to my bright eyed bushy tailed little boy, I acknowledged and invited a new relationship between myself and this young man.
It's a tough time as we negotiate this new path, and here are 5 things I wish to share....
Tip #1: Check in Every Day
Parents are still teens' biggest influencers when it comes to learning values, respect, and relationship skills.
As our children hit their tween and teen years, many of those comforting rituals and daily interactions begin to fade away or take a much different form because teens tend to exert more independence from their parents.
But don't be fooled. This does not mean they don't crave our attention and closeness. They just won't admit it. So find a time to check-in with your teen every day.
Early evening is a good time because you can casually chat about what's going on at school or with their part-time job while the dishes are being done. If this works for your family, that's great. However, for many of us, my family included, this can be tricky because everyone is on different schedules due to sports, after-school activities, and the various commitments that continually crop up.
So instead, I connect with my teen before school. I make sure I'm up and calm when I wake him. I make light conversation part of my morning ritual, inviting conversation about what they have on tap for the day at school, what's happening at practice after school, news about their friends and school projects. That 5-10 minutes every morning is routine for us, and we both expect it and relate to it.
It helps keep us grounded when we're all going in different directions all week long.
Tip #2: Connect Via Text
With phones a major part of nearly every teen's life, texting throughout the week is a no brainer.
When my kids were younger, one of my favorite ways to let them know I was thinking about them was to leave little notes for them. For my teen, I still leave the occassional hand written note, yet I more frequently do the next best thing - I text, sending 2-3 quick texts throughout the week so they feel my presence. If they have a major test, for instance, I'll text them wishing them good luck beforehand; same goes for a sports game they might be playing in or even just a random "Hope you're having a great day darling xx mumma" kind of text.
If you text with your teen, don't expect much in the way of a reply. Usually my kids will respond with a simple "OK" or "See you when I get home." That's all you can ask for at this age. But even if they don't reply, they know I'm thinking about them and I'm just a few keystrokes away.
Additionally, when feelings are becoming a little more complex, texting gives them an easier way to communicate that doesn't involve lots of talking about their feelings.
Tip #3: Unite with a Chore
Meals offer great opportunities for connecting with our kids.
There is something comforting and disarming about gathering around the kitchen table and eating a hearty meal, laughing, and talking. But let's face it, many families find it increasingly difficult to share regular meals together due to the logistics of our busy schedules.
So if breaking bread together isn't always possible, find another opportunity to spend time with your teen on a regular basis. I recommend clearing out a cupboard, putting some order back into a few shelves, "can you help me do a quick tidying up of the house", or folding laundry (often their laundry) together, or even making school lunches before bed.
Those unexpected moments are priceless and can happen when you least expect them, so take advantage of the mundane tasks around your house to facilitate a little bonding.
Tip #4: Invite Your Teen Into Your World
It's appropriate for teens to want to spend more time with their peers than their parents. But kids who are well grounded in their families tend to respond well to parents' efforts to stay connected. This means you as the parent have to make a constant effort to keep your teen connected to your world.
Our children need to rely on us emotionally until they’re ready to depend on themselves, so it's crucial to keep the lines of communication open. Invite them to come to you whenever they're feeling stressed and need to work through a problem - no matter how serious or small.
Topics like sex, alcohol and drugs, depression, conflict and bullying - these are issues that teens live with every day (more so nowadays because of social media). If they know that you're willing to be a good listener and are in their corner, you'll have a far better chance of them coming home to get help rather than looking for it elsewhere.
I remind my kids on a very regular basis that there is nothing they can't come talk to me about. I don't make promises that I will condone their actions or will have the answers to all their problems, but I make it very clear that they will never have to deal with these situations alone because my door is always open.
Tip #5: Request Once (kill the "Nagging")
I can be relentless sometimes and can't let something go unless I feel heard (code possibly for nagging but I simply hate that word) ...
Most parents would agree that the one thing that really drives them crazy is asking, and asking, and asking again for their kids to do some simple task. When the task doesn't get completed within a reasonable time schedule, we lose our patience and that's when we start letting loose with unpleasant commentary otherwise known as nagging.
We all know that nagging is about as effective as scraping nails on a chalkboard - it's unpleasant to listen to and it's a sure fire way to drive those you care about far, far away.
I'm trying this new approach with some success using persistent gentle reminders to get things done, better, faster, and with less stress. Think kindness rather than anger and patience rather than barking out orders.
Easier said than done? Not necessarily.
One night while I was losing my cool I saw myself and replayed my behaviour in my mind and even though I was in my right to be upset with not being heard and the task not being attempted (let alone completed) I saw myself and realised I looked and felt like a lunatic!
That moment left a lasting impression on me; so much so that I made a pact with myself to cull the nagging once and for all. Now I ask once for a job to be done and if it's not done in a timely manner, I simply go to the child responsible for the trask and quietly, matter-of-factly remind them of their responsibility. Failure to comply results in the addition of an extra chore besides the one that wasn't accomplished. In our house, silence is now golden!
What are some ways that help you stay connected with your teen? Share your thoughts in The Comments Section , post your ideas on our Facebook page forum or email me at email@example.com
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