Pop culture tells us that teenagers inevitably transform into hungry, rebellious, secretive monsters. But while it is true that teenagers seek autonomy, it’s not impossible for parents to keep the lines of communication open.
It might seem that you and your teenager have nothing in common — you cringe at their music and wince at their choice of clothes. And yet, with a little effort, you can find activities that will allow you to bond with your teenager. The first step? Accepting that your teen doesn’t want to listen to classical music or putter about in the garden.
“Find out what they want to do,” says Karen Deerwester, the author of “The Entitlement-Free Child,” in an interview with SUCCESS Magazine. “It’s not about what you want to do. With teenagers, it’s about getting into their world.”
Find out what your teen likes, then propose activities centered around that interest. A budding actress might want to see a play, while a sports enthusiast would prefer tickets to a game. If your teen likes your idea, let him or her plan out the details, like what play you will see. Teens need to feel that they have a voice in planning activities.
Actually bonding during that activity might be a little more challenging. Turn off the parenting voice, but don’t try too hard to be their friend — teens want to “hang” with their peers, not mom or dad. In fact, it might be a good idea to allow them to bring a friend. That way, teenagers enjoy their friends’ company while also spending time with their parents.
If activities spark discussion, let your teen talk first. Listen to what they say before you respond, and try not to fix their problems for them. Teenagers need to explore their own interests and face the consequences of their decisions, whether they be good or bad. If teens believe that they can’t talk to their parents, they will lie or manipulate to get what they want.
And do accept that teenagers will need time away from you. “We want to spend more time with them than they do with us, and we have to be respectful of that.” says Ann Corwin, a parenting consultant, child-development educator and the creator of “The Child Connection” DVD. “Try not to take it personally.”