Building a strong relationship with your teenagers is vital to their growth and development. When your baby arrives, to create a bond with your cute little one is relatively easier because the baby is still at the dependence stage. But as your baby grows and develops, they start understanding things, seek independence, and make their own decisions, and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the bonding.
Although a good bonding at the childhood stage can help parents to build a good relationship with their teenagers, it is a new level of a relationship entirely during teenage years. Bonding with teenagers has its dynamics, requirements and consequences.
When parents are too rigid and unwilling to adjust their approach to relating with their teens, they make an open relationship between them and their teens difficult. The teens will get too scared to open-up, and instead, prefer to bottle-up issues they are going through than talking to their parents about them. This sort of communication gap can affect the teens involved. It’s always better to observe and discuss more.
Teenage years are critical to your teen’s development. Self-esteem, confidence, boldness, integrity, personal/professional relationships, decision-making, resilience, and other core life values are learnt, questioned and understood during these years.
It is important that parents start teaching their kids life lessons early before they get to the teenage years. Doing this will facilitate a smoother transition to this critical period in their lives. Read here on how to pass down core values to your children. Hence, it is imminent that parents’ bond with their teenagers before it’s too late.
In this article, I want to share with you some practical tips for parent-teen bonding before it’s too late. These tips will help you to connect better with your teens. If you are new to this subject, please read our previous articles on understanding parent-teen relationship and ways parents can improve their relationship with their teenagers.
1. Be approachable
What most teenagers need is a friendly atmosphere to thrive. Once you can create this atmosphere, you will bond better with your teenager. Be the mentor they can talk to any time.
Don’t be a dictator or be too mean that they find it difficult to approach you.
Understand that teenagers feel free to talk in an atmosphere where they don’t feel judged. They also talk to anybody they consider as friends via different platforms. Be the one they run to, to pour out their hearts and seek sound advice. Create a friendly atmosphere and be approachable.
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" Your aim is to raise responsible, honest and resilient teens. To bond with them and optimally achieve this, you have to model these virtues in your life and home. "
2. Do and share things
Doing things together with your teenager will strengthen the bond. You can cook, shop, hike, bike, play games, solve puzzles, or even watch movies together. See more on this point in our upcoming article on ‘fun activities that families can do together’.
These activities create avenues for better relationship/understanding between you and your teens. You will know the way they reason and understand their strengths and feelings by doing activities together.
You know the saying that …there is love in sharing, that comes into play here. Not only is sharing times and moments important, but it also builds up your relationship. Share things and thoughts with your teenagers!
When I was 14, I wore some of my mum's and elder sister’s shoes because we had the same size then. I also used some of their hair accessories, and when I was of age, we shared make-up too. ‘Little things’ like this created a bond between us.
3. Listen and learn to trust your teenagers
As children grow into teens, they want to be listened to, trusted, and taken seriously. Listen to them attentively, let them say their minds or what they think without unwarranted interruption. Correct them respectfully when necessary. Entrust some responsibilities to them from time to time. Make them realize and also tell them you are counting on them.
Look for ways to show your to-be adult that you trust him/her. One thing they would not want to do is to betray that trust or disappoint you. Committing some responsibilities to your teenager with the understanding of their capabilities will enable you to build trust in your relationship and also show them that you trust them. Read more on why you need to build trust in your relationships here.
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4. Be interested in their affairs
Be interested and curious about what is happening in your teenager’s life. Ask direct questions like: how did your day go? How was school today? You look really happy or sad, what’s going on? etc. Just ensure you do this in a relaxed mode without pressure or raising your voice at them.
Teens are, most times, moved by music and popular culture such as games, movies, lifestyle, fashion, etc. Figure out what moves your teens and learn a bit of these cultures to flow better with them. Let the things that matter to your teens, such as their life goals, choice of career and other extra-curricular activities be of uttermost importance to you. Be interested in their affairs to bond with them.
"In a chaotic situation, be calm, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your teen is only going through his/her life-transforming phase."
5. Be the adult they need
In as much as you want to be nice and relate well with your teenager, when it comes to passing on a lesson regarding a good virtue, stand your ground. Be the adult they need and don’t give in to any form of manipulation from them.
Don’t make things ‘too easy’ for your teen. If you do, they will find it difficult to adjust to the other side of life or get a balanced perspective about life. And of course, life happens. Be the adult to prepare them for the tough rides in life.
As an adult in their lives, let your teens know your core values, family cultures/traditions, your house rules, and the consequences of breaking them. Get more tips on passing down ethical values to your children here. Make your expectations clear and known to them.
6. Be calm and remember you are the parent/guardian
Regardless of some unpleasant attitude teenagers exhibit as they grow to adulthood, for example: keeping mute, heckling, yelling, rudeness, stubbornness, door-slamming, curse words, insulting/abusive utterances, etc. remain calm and remember that you are their parent. Don’t take it personally. The phase will be over before you know it.
Your job as a parent/guardian is to train your teen to be an independent, respectful, and compassionate adult. In a chaotic situation, be calm, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your teen is only going through his/her life-transforming phase.
7. Model a good relationship by relating well with your spouse or Ex
Whether you are married, separated, divorced, living with your spouse or not, develop a better relationship with your spouse. Don’t insult or hang your dirty linens before your kids. Respect each other, your differences, and manage your affairs privately because your teens are watching.
Your aim is to raise responsible, honest and resilient teens. To bond with them and optimally achieve this, you have to model these virtues in your life and home. And while you are at it, talk about how you are doing it with them.
8. Be 'you'
Just be you. Don’t try to conform to something else just to blend in. Don’t get it twisted; they know you since they were babies and they love and respect you just the way you are.
They have seen enough phoney people out there pretending to be who they are not just to be their friend. They will bond better with you knowing that mama/papa will always be themselves.
9. Do routine checks on their friends and peers
To bond with your teenager, you have to know who their friends are, and what gets their attention too. Keeping taps on their friends will avail you the opportunity to figure out who they are likely to mimic. When you spot a friend, who has a bad influence on your teen, you can advise early and adequately. Do routine checks on their friends and peers.
Remember that when this phase is over, your teenager will be out of your ‘house’, making their own choices and decisions. Bonding with them early and at this stage will help them develop their strength and confidence. Teenagers are great people and will remember how you bonded with them and taught them life lessons.
Let me know your experiences in the comment section. Let’s dazzle together!