Are you worried that you and your teenager are drifting apart?
Maybe your teen is busy with school, other activities, or spending time with friends.
And when your teen isn’t, the door to his or her room is closed.
You can barely have a decent conversation with your teenager – much less hang out as a family. And when you share meals, everyone is on their phones.
It’s perfectly normal for your relationship with your teens to change over time, as they’ll have a growing need for independence.
But building a strong bond with them is still important.
Plus, these teens tend to experience lower levels of depression and stress.
In this article, I’ll discuss some of the best ways to reconnect with your teenagers and foster a meaningful bond with them.
(If your teen lacks motivation, download the free e-book below.)
Tip #1: Listen without judgment
Your teens are looking for support as they navigate new challenges and changes in life.
As parents, the best thing we can do is become a safe space for our teens to talk about their experiences and worries without fear of judgment.
Here are some tips that might help when your teens need a listening ear:
- Let your teen speak without interruptions. Imagine your teen says, “Someone from my math class asked me out on a date.” You react by saying, “You’re not allowed to date at this age,” then cut off the conversation. This eliminates the opportunity to have a healthy discussion about boundaries, dating, and sex. Instead, encourage dialogue with open-ended questions like “How do you feel?” and “Do you feel ready to start dating?”
- Show that you’re listening. Check your body language whenever your teens talk to you. Are you making eye contact and nodding once in a while? Or do you sigh, roll your eyes, and continue using your phone when they come to you with a problem? If your teens don’t think you care, they won’t want to talk to you.
- Avoid catastrophizing. For example, some parents may think it’s best to “scare” their teens out of dating by saying it will lead to heartbreak and betrayal. But if your teens feel anxious and afraid after talking to you, they may be less likely to open up to you in the future. Instead, you can help your teens to weigh the pros and cons of different choices. This encourages your teens to think more deeply and make wise decisions.
Encouraging and holding healthy conversations with your teenagers will take some practice. But learning to communicate is the key to building a strong relationship with your teens.
Tip #2: Find time to spend together
Without any effort to make proper family time happen, you might find that you and your teens are drifting apart.
So it’s important to intentionally create time and space to enjoy each other’s company.
Here are some ways to encourage your teens to spend more time together as a family:
- Let your teens play a role in deciding what the family will do together
- Pick activities that your teens already enjoy
- Schedule weekly family time together and make it a routine
- Let your teens know in advance if there is going to be a family activity or get-together
It also helps to show that you respect your teen’s time and independence. You can ask them if they have a preferred time and date before planning a family event or activity.
Tip #3: Respect your teen’s independence
A growing need for independence is a natural part of adolescence. The tricky part lies in finding the sweet spot between helicopter parenting and hands-off parenting.
Helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved in their teenager’s life.
Some research shows that this parenting style can negatively impact a teen’s mental health. It can also negatively affect teenagers’ learning and level of self-efficacy.
On the other hand, giving your teens too much freedom with little guidance can also lead to problems down the road.
Here’s how you can nurture healthy independence in your teens:
- Start involving your teens in decisions and giving them opportunities to make their own. You can teach your teens the process of making wise decisions. This typically involves weighing the benefits and risks of each option.
- Respect your teens’ opinions and emotions. They might have a different view from you about some issues. Respect and acknowledge your teens’ opinions instead of brushing them off. Of course, you should provide guidance if their opinions contradict your family’s principles and values.
- Give your teens the privacy they need. For example, it’s probably reasonable for you to knock on your teens’ door before entering, and to avoid bombarding them with texts when they’re out with their friends.
It might seem easier to control your teens and make decisions for them to ensure they never fail.
But teenagers need the freedom to learn from their mistakes. This helps them grow into responsible and independent adults.
Tip #4: Give your teen compliments
Complimenting your teens helps to build a stronger bond and improve their confidence.
When giving compliments, always be genuine – teenagers can spot insincerity from a mile away.
In addition, try to make the praise focused on the process and on the progress your teens are making, rather than on the outcome or result.
This approach encourages your teens to focus on growing and improving. It also helps your teens to develop resilience and intrinsic motivation.
For example, you can replace “Wow, great job getting an A on your chemistry exam” with a more process-focused compliment.
This might go something like: “I saw you working really hard to prepare for this chemistry exam. It looks like your effort led to this big improvement.”
Tip #5: Show interest in what your teen is interested in
Pay attention to what your teens are passionate about, and try to maintain an attitude of curiosity. This will give you another avenue to connect with them.
For example, if your daughter enjoys learning how to use makeup, you can buy lipstick for her as a birthday gift.
Or maybe your son loves playing soccer. If so, you can make it a point to pick him up after soccer practice and bring along his favorite snack or drink.
Knowing what your teens love will also allow you to give compliments that matter to them – instead of only praising them when they do well in school.
Telling your teens how skilled they’ve become at a sport, video game, or any activity they enjoy will mean a lot to them.
Tip #6: Be intentional about showing unconditional love
Unconditional love is one of the greatest gifts teenagers can receive from their parents.
This involves accepting and loving your teenagers even when they fall short of certain expectations.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate unconditional love to your teens:
- Telling your teens you love them for who they are (and not for what they have achieved)
- Forgiving your teens when they’ve made a mistake
- Refraining from bringing up mistakes they’ve made in the past
- Refraining from name-calling or attacking your teens verbally
- Supporting your teens in their dreams and ambitions (even if it’s not what you want for them)
If you show your teenagers unconditional love, they won’t feel anxious or worried about needing to “earn” your love.
Plus, this will build the parent-teen relationship, which will enhance your teens’ sense of self-worth.
Tip #7: Welcome your teen’s friends
Your teenagers will appreciate the effort you put into making your home a comfortable space for them and their friends to hang out.
It’s likely that friends play a significant role in your teens’ lives. So showing that you genuinely care for their friends can help strengthen the bond you share with your teens.
You don’t need to own a fancy house or a ping pong table to be welcoming toward your teenagers’ friends.
What’s most important is creating a space for your teenagers to have fun and make lifelong memories together with their friends.
Tip #8: Be available when you’re needed, as far as possible
Your teens are still learning to juggle school, family, friends, and maybe even work or a relationship. It’s challenging for them. So this is where you can provide support and encouragement.
You can do this by putting your phone and other distractions away when your teenagers want to talk.
It’s also a good idea to ask your teens how you can best support them when they’re struggling.
In many situations, it’s important for you to be cautious and not to show too many big emotions when you’re trying to empathize with your teens.
For example, let’s say that your son just had a big argument with his girlfriend. You might be tempted to say mean things about his girlfriend to make him feel better.
But big reactions like this can backfire, especially if your son chooses to make up with his girlfriend the following day.
Instead, try to empathize with your teens calmly and help them to analyze the situation when they’re ready to.
Tip #9: Demonstrate patience and understanding
Dealing with your teen’s poor behavior after you’ve already had a long day is stressful for any parent.
Here are some ways to deal with a teenage tantrum or a misbehaving teen:
- Set house rules and consequences for breaking them, and be consistent. If your teens are acting up, you can ask them to take some time to cool off before discussing the issue again.
- Remind yourself not to take things too personally. Your teens should be held accountable for mean or hurtful things they say or do. But as a parent, it’s unwise to fight fire with fire. Try to stay calm and level-headed instead of yelling back at your teens.
- Listen to your teenagers without interrupting them. Try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their emotions and struggles better.
- Make time to take care of yourself. Self-care as a parent might sound taboo. But prioritizing your well-being will put you in the best position to be a patient and understanding parent.
Learn to forgive yourself too. And don’t hold back from extending a genuine apology to your teens if you’ve said or done something hurtful in a moment of anger.
Tip #10: Show your teen that you trust him or her
Give your teenagers opportunities to be independent. Let them make their own decisions whenever possible.
You can also give your teens more privileges when they demonstrate responsibility and honesty.
For example, you could extend your teens’ curfew if they’ve shown that they’ve been able to keep to their curfew consistently.
Additionally, keep in mind that trust is a two-way street.
Do your best to model responsibility, honesty, and accountability to your teens. Staying true to your words and promises is a great way to do this.
To guide and support your teens, you’ll need to create a healthy bond with them.
The good news is that there are various steps you can take to reconnect with your teens and develop a great relationship with them.
So start implementing the tips in this article today!
(Make sure to download your free e-book below.)