8 Ways to Build a Strong Bond with Your Teen

Few parenting challenges are quite as terrifying as handling a teenager. Horror stories of teenage moodiness, rebellion, and questionable taste in friends leave many parents feeling grossly unprepared for the unavoidable drama on the horizon.

The key to successfully tackling this phase is to take a deep breath, relax, and remember that teens are not monsters. They’re just kids going through a lot of physical, emotional, and social changes–all at the same time. Parents can build and maintain a healthy relationship with their children throughout the teen years with a bit of patience and a lot of love. The following tips help parents create a lasting bond that makes navigating the teen years somewhat easier:

Talk. Although teens seem to prefer spending most of their time in their rooms, they do want to know that their parents take an interest in their lives. The key to conversing with a teen is to keep it casual and relaxed. Much to a parent’s surprise, an informal “How was your day`” can prompt many teens to open up. Talking regularly about friends is a helpful way to monitor what’s happening in a child’s peer crowd. It also shows teens that their parents are genuinely interested in what’s happening in their personal lives. Goals, accomplishments, struggles, and any individual interests (sports, movies, music) are fantastic subjects. The point of these daily discussions is to establish a fun, relaxed, and enjoyable exchange of information. It’s incredibly important that these chats never turn into a scolding session; that will only turn teens off to the whole idea. Parents should aim for at least 15 to 30 minutes of conversation each day at a time when their kids seem particularly chatty–after school, in the car, at the dinner table, or before bed are great opportunities.

Listen, listen, listen. Once the conversations start flowing, parents should let their teens take the reins. That allows them to steer the conversation in the direction they desire. Great listening provides teens the chance to unload what’s on their mind. It’s helpful to respond to them with appropriate comments and questions and encourage them to elaborate. Listening is incredibly crucial during difficult or touchy conversations. Parents should try to listen to their teen with an open mind and respond constructively if their teen approaches them with a problem. It can be difficult for parents to remain calm when their child has done something wrong, but it’s essential to maintain this open line of communication. A hasty reaction may cause a teen to clam up in the future.

Remain calm in the winds of change. Nothing gets resolved when you’re too stressed to think. if you can’t respond rationally to something your teen did, take a break until you can.

Respect boundaries. It’s often a challenge for parents to grant their teens increasingly more privacy and autonomy. But in order to develop good judgment, they need lots of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Encourage their learning.

They’re always watching. You want your child to be trustworthy, responsible, honest, resilient and good-hearted. Make sure you’re modeling those values in your own life. And while you’re at it, talk about the walk as you’re walking it.

Catch your child in the act of doing something right. Teens struggle with self-confidence. When they aren’t dumping on themselves, their peers may do it for them. Don’t add your voice to the chorus of negativity. Actively look for things your kids are doing right. Your praise shows you notice more than their faults. It will also increase their feelings of competency.

Be real. Father/mother do not always know best. Admit your own confusion and mistakes. Apologize when appropriate. Show your kids that just like them, you too are also “a work in progress.” That’s all any of us can expect from ourselves and others... progress, not perfection.

Schedule regular unplugged time to enjoy being a family. Cook. Eat. Walk. Bike. Bowl. Whatever. The point is: Relaxing together without screens in the way is a gift with long-lasting benefits.