Building relationships with teens is a delicate balance. As a mother of five (age 7 to 27), I know it’s not easy. One day you feel like the parent of the year and the next you’re over thinking everything. Over the years I made some mistakes with my children. I’ve had some successes too. When I reflect on all of these experiences, I think of my mother and everything she taught me. I will never forget those teachable moments. And ironically, the five suggestions listed below are a reflection of the gifts she gave her eight children. Thank you for allowing me to share a few with you. They’re simple, practical and easy to implement. They’ve certainly been game changers for me.
- Allow her to problem solve on her own instead of fixing things for her. Sometimes, its our natural inclination as parents to assume our children want (and need) our help. Sometimes its necessary to pause, take a step back and allow the process to happen without us. You can also ask if they would like our help or ask if you can make suggestions. Given the space and opportunity our teens might surprise us
- Encourage her to take physical risks. Overcoming obstacles is huge. I mean REALLY huge. It helps teens understand they have skills, talents and abilities. It instills a sense of worth, confidence and competence. Encourage your teen to try new things. Sometimes they push back because its uncomfortable. But that’s where growth takes place
- Let your daughter know you love her because of who she is, not because of how she looks. Too often we focus on the exterior of the person by saying things like, “you look so pretty” or “I love your hair”. Don’t get me wrong. Compliments aren’t a bad thing, but be sure your teen knows you admire and appreciate their intelligence, ability to empathize, how they care for others, their ability to work well on teams, etc. What matters on the inside (and the outside) is what counts
- Help her distinguish between tv/social media and the real world. It’s critical for teens to understand what they see on tv, in movies and magazines isn’t real. This creates an opportunity to discuss values, worth, forgiveness and caring about others (not just yourself). Identify a “no cell phone” time frame so everyone is engaged and connected to each other instead of their phone, computer or tv. Those meaningful connections can create healthy habits that last a lifetime
- Listen more than you talk. Parents don’t mean to do this, but it happens a lot. We nag, complain and focus on everything that’s going wrong. Without even realizing it, most of our interactions are negative and focused on what isn’t working instead of what is. This week, take a different approach. Instead of the barrage of questions, say, “You know _______, I’m really proud of you because _______”. Be comfortable in the silence and wait for their response. Either you’ll scare the bajeebers out of them or it’ll begin a new ways of connecting. It might do both.