Author: Rachel Jones, LMFT
This sounds easier than it is! You have only limited time with your teen in between school, sports, and work. When you do have time with them, you want to check in on that missing assignment in Pre-Cal. We get so caught up in the busyness and “to-dos” that we forget to listen. What are they into? What music are they connecting with? Actively listening can take patience. You may care less about the new Korean Pop band that they are raving about, but if they are sharing something they love with you, take the time to listen. Being available to listen to your teen is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. When you are available to listen to the “small” stuff, it makes you safe to approach with the “big” stuff.
Rituals are routine, intentional events and I encourage starting them early. Examples can include: donuts with Dad on Saturday mornings, bike rides Sunday afternoons, pizza night on Friday, and watching Cowboy football games together. Even if your teen appears uninterested, rituals are an open invitation for connection; it is intentional time and space dedicated to the relationship. The goal is to make this time connecting and restorative – I caution you to not initiate difficult conversations during these events. Instead, let this be a time when your teen may initiate some conversation since it is a safe and routine space with you.
Allow for Space and Independence
Trust is a very freeing feeling within any relationship. When your adolescent is given the space he/she needs to face the daily circus of being a teenager, it creates opportunity for genuine bids for connection. Part of parenting a teen means helping them shed some of the protective layers of their childhood and by doing so, it allows them to gain the skills that they need to successfully transition into adulthood. For example, Mom learns that her teenage son has a missing school assignment that is affecting his grade. Rather than calling the teacher to figure out how to salvage it, Mom guides her son on how to have the discussion with his teacher and maximize the opportunity for growth.