Your teen is more likely to make positive decisions if they have a strong, supportive relationship with you as their parent. Forging that bond is easier than you think.
If you are the dad of a teenager, chances are you have spent a few nights staring at the ceiling instead of falling asleep.
Things may be sailing along pretty smoothly most of the time, but when you and your teenager hit a rough patch, it can be really unsettling and frustrating!
There are so many phases parents go through in the “raising kids journey.”
One of the most frequent parenting questions I am asked has something to do with teenagers.
It seems like to many parents that by the time they’ve successfully navigated their way through early childhood and the middle school years, they feel like they really deserve a break. It is only then they discover they’re actually staring into one of the scariest times of all!
So many new variables are all coming at you so fast that you can hardly keep your head above water…
Dating and sex
Part time jobs
…and the realization high school graduation is just around the corner. All of these elements combine to create just a few of the OMG moments for parents of teenagers.
During these teenage years, it can be pretty intimidating, to say the least. Your teenager is having completely new experiences and they are looking for ways to navigate some pretty heavy duty choices and decisions.
We would all like to think that our teenagers wouldn’t dream of discussing such important decisions and problems with anyone except us, but that’s not usually the case.
More often than not, teenagers do have those conversations with their friends.
Now, that might be a good thing, or it could be a very, very bad thing.
Sean makes a statement that should cause every parent to stop and take a deep breath.
“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”
It’s not hard to understand that our teenagers’ friends often wield far more influence in the lives of our teens than we do as their parents.
But the good news is research has shown your teen is much more likely to make positive decisions if they have a strong, positive relationship with you as their parent.
Sean says there are three top reasons kids gravitate toward negative peers’ influence:
- 1. Low self-Esteem
- 2. An absence of positive adult role models
- 3. Poor parent relationships
While those three things most certainly do contribute to more negative influences, I’d like to provide three concrete things you can do as the parent of a teen to get a huge jump on building a stronger relationship with them.
Think of them as ingredients for the care and feeding of your teenager!
1. Be as authentic with them as possible.
One of the most challenging things to do with our kids is to be authentic.
Sometimes our own fear of failing as a parent can cause us to hide behind our own weaknesses and flaws and we end up coming across as total fakes.
As a former school administrator, I’ve talked to a lot of teenagers over the years and many of them told me they’d wished their parents would just be real with them about who they are as a person instead of always trying to act like they’ve got it all figured out.
The funny thing is, those same teenagers saw right through the façade anyway.
Your kids long to know you.
The real you.
It’s absolutely amazing how being willing to open yourself up to them will build an even stronger relationship.
It’s okay to tell them some stories about your own teenage years and what you were thinking and feeling during that part of your life.
Of course, you might not want to tell them everything!
2. Show regular, genuine interest in what interests them
This one gets missed by a lot by parents of teens.
When I was raising a teenager just a short seven years ago, our world was nowhere near where it is today with social media and other technology platforms that our teens are immersed in today.
Every generation has had its own version of new “technologies” that the older folks didn’t understand or care to learn about.
And now, it’s all so pervasive in our lives that it’s a fantastic way to take an interest in what holds your teen’s attention.
My daughter was a teenager when Facebook first launched. It took me about two years before I even knew it existed!
I took the opportunity to enlist her in helping me to set up my account, and even teach me how it all works.
That was time well spent.
Not only did she feel valued and appreciated by me, but we spent great time together as she helped me to figure it all out.
Today, I consider myself pretty social media savvy, but I never miss a chance to connect with her now, even though she’s in her early twenties…when I just don’t get it.
3. Consistently schedule time every week with your teenager to connect and have fun.
When I meet with coaching clients, one of the first things we talk about is their calendar.
If you look at someone’s calendar, you can usually tell pretty quickly what’s important to them.
The idea is that what is important to us is what gets scheduled.
I learned a long time ago that if I run into someone I haven’t seen in a long time, and the brief conversation ends with the person saying to me, “Hey, let’s have lunch one day and catch up!” If the very next thing said isn’t, “Okay, let’s get it on the calendar now,” it will simply never happen.
Being intentional about a recurring calendar event to schedule some uninterrupted time with your teen is so important.
Don’t let having to make a time adjustment from week-to-week stop you from taking the first step to make this happen.
Ask your teenager for an open time in their schedule so that you can confirm some time meant just for the two of you.
You can get so creative in what you do during these scheduled times.
It doesn’t have to cost money.
It doesn’t have to be difficult.
It just has to be meaningful.
I promise you these times spent with your teenager will last a lifetime.
The teens I’ve spoken to whose parents have done this with them have said they will treasure these times for the rest of their lives.
The deeper trust and authenticity that you develop with your teenager acts like a vaccination against them dropping out of your life, first emotionally, mentally and then physically.
None of these suggestions are hard to do.
But it does take being intentional to realize the measure of influence you develop during the teenage years can last a life time.
Instead of worrying about your teenager having some friends that you “hate,” it’s much better to be the friend they will come to when they need a listening ear and experienced advice.
Remember…You can parent effectively and build powerful relationship bonds at the same time!
Photo credit: Getty Images