Ways to Connect with Your Teen

If you have teens in the house, you know how challenging family life can be at times. Teens are going through immense physical, emotional and social changes. They are seeking independence and trying to figure out their identity. While this can lead to some difficult behaviour at times, it’s important to maintain a strong connection with your teen, whether you are a parent or foster carer. Here are some positive ways to bond with your adolescent and understand what they are going through. 

Understand Their Developmental Stage

The teenage years are a period of significant brain development. Teens are starting to use more logic and abstract thinking. But their prefrontal cortex, which controls planning and decision-making, is still developing. This is why teens can sometimes make impulsive choices and prioritise peer relationships over family. It’s not personal – they are just wired that way right now! Have empathy for the developmental stage your teen is in.

Teens also need more sleep than children or adults because of all the growth and change happening in their bodies and brains. Be understanding if your teen wants to sleep in on weekends and take naps. Make sure they are getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Proper rest will help improve their mood and behaviour.

Encourage Open Communication

Keeping the lines of communication open is key to connecting with your adolescent. Ask open-ended questions about their interests, friends, challenges at school and general well-being. Avoid yes or no questions. Really listen without judgement when your teen is speaking. Make eye contact and reflect back what you are hearing.

Don’t immediately dismiss their feelings or concerns, even if they sound minor to you. Validation goes a long way with teens. Let them know you take them seriously. Have regular family meetings where everyone gets a chance to speak. Welcome your teen’s input on household rules and decisions.

Do Activities Together

Making time for fun with your teen shows them you value spending time together. Ask what their hobbies and interests are and do them together sometimes. Even just watching a favourite TV show together can bond you. Cook a meal together. Go for walks and appreciate nature. Exercise as a family. Play board games. Volunteer together in the community.

Shared activities give you unstructured time to talk and understand what’s happening in your teen’s life right now. Outdoor time promotes emotional well-being for people of all ages. So, make family walks a regular ritual. Unplug from devices when you are together as well.

Support Their Growing Independence

Part of the teenage process is your child becoming their own person and separating from their parents. Support their growing independence within reason. Let them pick out their own clothes and hairstyles, decorate their bedroom and choose extracurricular activities aligned with their interests.

Of course, provide guidance on important life decisions but don’t dictate everything. If they want an after-school job, help them find options while discussing how it will impact schoolwork. Give them more freedom over how they spend their time, while maintaining some family rules and expectations.

Make Time for One-on-One Connections

In addition to family time, aim to spend one-on-one time with your teen each week. You could get breakfast together before school one morning. Grab an ice cream and go for a drive while chatting in the car. Do a hobby side-by-side. Even 10-15 minutes of focused connection helps teens feel loved and understood.

If you are fostering in Leicester, the teens in your care may have experienced trauma like abuse, neglect or parental loss, so it is especially vital to build trust through regular one-on-one time. Be a reliable, patient presence in their life. Help build their self-esteem by focusing on their strengths during your time together.

Overall, make your teen feel accepted, valued and supported as they figure themselves out. Have compassion for the ups and downs of adolescence. With empathy, communication and quality time, you can maintain a strong relationship with your teen during this pivotal life stage.

2020 Kimberly Signature

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