In a world where parents and teens can no longer be naïve, staying ahead of every trend seems a daunting task. Trends ebb and flow, changing with technology and dependent on what culture deems popular. While parents cannot guess ahead of every experience their teen might encounter, they can make themselves available for good communication through positive relationships with their teen. Here are five tips for maintaining a positive relationship with your teen:
Participating in family activities will maintain the rapport needed for good communication. Attending their school activities, playing sports together, going on walks, and eating meals together provide time to build positive relationships with your children. Teens sometimes don’t feel comfortable initiating serious conversation, but may be more willing to talk while sharing experiences or engaged in other activities. Actively participating in your teenager’s world will keep you aware of cultural shifts, friendship patterns, and dating dynamics.
Teens won’t disclose big things if they are not able to safely share little things. If you don’t pay attention when they share the silly or mundane things of everyday life, it isn’t likely that they will share struggles or ask for help when they need it. Talking about the little things gives you and your teen practice for talking about the big things.
Once a teenager feels like sharing, it is important that they be able to do so. Listen. Let them say what they have to say without trying to interpret or interfere. Teenagers are not little children, and they are supposed to be developing the skills to negotiate the world independently. Listen instead of interrupting, prompt instead of correcting, and discuss consequences instead of punishing. Be an advocate encouraging them to think their way through problem-solving — even when it means they suffer the consequences for any poor choices during the learning process.
If families decide together the rules and consequences for rule-breaking ahead of time, there is less drama when it is time to deliver those consequences. Clearly communicating things like curfew, types of dating allowed at different ages, and appropriate dating activities ahead of time reduces debates and power struggles in the moment. Letting your teenager know up front that you check phone, chat, and email records makes it a matter of accountability rather than privacy invasion.
5. Be a role model
The best way for teenagers to learn how to interact well others is by how you treat them. Keep a positive attitude, notice good experiences, be willing to apologize, and be the respectful person you want your teen to become. Teach them how to manage stress, resolve conflict, and problem solve by the way you respond to these issues with your teen. Hold yourself to the same standards you expect your teen to develop.
Parents can support healthy relationships for their teenager by modeling their own healthy relationships with their teen. Trends will come and go, but the relationship you develop with your teen will keep you informed and available to help.