Being a parent to a teenage kid can be challenging. Their coming-of-age is a complex time in their lives that involves an emotional if not physical distancing from parents, an array of adjustments not to mention the hormonal changes they go through.
While parents are seen as the authority in their children’s life before they reach legal age, raising teenagers takes more than just a set of house rules or parameters. A good balance of parental authority and an harmonious relationship with your teenager will foster a bond of friendship between parent and child that will help shape them into mature individuals down the road.
Peer pressure, negative social influences and tricky teenage friendship dynamics are common during adolescence and most counselors agree that during this phase, parental guidance borne off mutual respect is most helpful. It isn’t easy but with a little effort and a lot of sincerity, it is possible to become your teenager’s best friend without having too hard a time of it.
Here are 7 ways you can bond better with your teenage son or daughter.
Provide a Sense of Security
On a daily basis, your teenager is bombarded with information and influences, both good and bad, which their developing brain is not fully equipped to handle. In fact, a 2019 study of more than 6,500 12 to 15-year-olds in the U.S. found that those who spent more than three hours a day using social media may be at a heightened risk for mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Add to that other issues like peer pressure and bullying and their fragile sense of identity and self-esteem and judgement can be adversely affected.
Parents must create a safe and wholesome environment at home where children feel protected and nurtured. Be their sense of solace whenever the world feels too toxic and unbearable for them.
Relationships don’t prosper without the element of trust. Show your teenager that you trust them and let them know that you are trustworthy as well.
Teenagers in particular resent it when their parents question their choices or control what they can do. Parenting at this stage is a delicate balance between giving your teen enough rope so they can become more independent, gain experiences and even make some mistakes but at the same time hovering close enough that you can act as a guide when needed. Giving them a chance to redeem their mistakes will help them open up to you more.
They also will be getting into activities and hobbies which do not involve you. Give them the space and time they need. Don’t get upset or envious when they seem to be getting away from you and spending more and more time with their peers. Instead, teach them to build good relationships and make smart decisions.
In a few short years down the road your teenager will leave home to be independent so cherish every moment you have with them now. Life as we know it is transitory and your kid’s teenage years is a great time to create lasting memories.
Have movie nights with them, shop and travel with them, celebrate their milestones, maintain the family traditions and create new ones etc. They will remember these times with fondness and will in turn take these lessons into their own parenthood.
Help Instead of Judge
In order to be your teen’s best friend and parent at the same time, it is important that you not pass judgements. This will only alienate them and cause them to start keeping things from you.
Keep an open mind and understand where they are coming from. Gently reprimand them but always with a clear sense of love and concern. Turn your “What you did was wrong” into “Let’s talk about the situation and how to tackle this better next time.”
Make Them Laugh
Laughter reduces stress hormones and allows you to loosen up, be in the moment and enjoy your time together. When children and parents share laughter, it leads to a relaxed and fun relationship.
Be A Good Listener
Always keep a healthy and open channel of communication. Make yourself available and easy to talk to. Be the friend they can comfortably chat with about silly things, profound thoughts and feelings as well. They will then come to you for advice when faced with important decisions in life.
Allow your teenager to see your weaker side. It is okay for them to know that you are not always right and strong but that you do the best you can and work hard to keep things together for the family to flourish. Be humble enough to ask for help and advice from your teenager whenever you need it. This will reinforce the trust and bond that you share.
Being a friend to your teenager is no easy task. Take these steps towards developing a lifelong relationship based on loving support, trust, understanding and mutual respect.