9 ways to reconnect with your teenager
I’m a mum with two daughters, a 7-year-old and a nearly 12-year-old. My oldest is 11 going on 16 and it can be scary. I’m feeling the teenage years already and strongly — and the mums around me are saying the same thing. Teenagers are standing up against many things; pushing back, saying “NO!” and “Why not?” and “It’s not fair” and “You’re so unfair!” I know it’s always a bit like this as a parent, but this is another level and it feels harder.
When I think about it, I have to laugh in a way. My work involves communication and conflict resolution! Here I am helping organisations enhance relationships, solve their conflict problems and manage change and uncertainty yet, with my own daughter, I find myself at times really struggling to manage this stage. I think it might be even harder in this day and age. There’s social media, electronics, YouTube … it entertains but it also distances.
Many studies highlight that the communication and connection between parent and teenager is the key to your teen's wellbeing. But how do you do this?
Many studies highlight that the communication and connection between parent and teenager is the key to your teen’s wellbeing. But how do you do this when it feels like such a struggle? And your life is so busy, too, with work, school, extracurricular activities and trying to manage your home life. I know what it’s like; sometimes you feel like you can barely keep afloat.
Here are nine ways to find your way back to your teenager. I know not all of these will work for you and your teenager, but they are just some ideas and may give you inspiration for others.
1. When you’re finding your teenager repeatedly frustrating, try to regularly remind yourself that this is what the teenage stage is meant to be. Work on accepting this so that, when you respond, it’s not with complete irritation and a bad tone. Try to, more often than not, talk with a calm and kind voice (I know it’s not always possible but try your best).
2. Arrange some one-on-one time whenever you can. Go to a cafe, restaurant or park or sit in their room or take the longer way home and talk. Ask them questions like, “How are things going?”, “You feeling OK about school?” Say something like, “I know it’s not always easy between us. I really want to work to do better together and I love you and I’m here for you.”
3. Reach out. It could be a smile, bringing a cup of tea to them in the morning or just consciously hanging out with them for a few moments … and being patient.
4. Try saying something like, “I know things have been hard between us, could we try to say five things that we like or love about each other?” My daughter and I felt closer after we did this.
5. When you have had to be stern, think about whether it’s worth explaining your perspective. Make sure it’s when you’re both calm. Say something like, “Could I talk to you about our argument about ___________ and explain my perspective?” Then, do your best to explain how you feel without blame or frustration. Try something like, “Before school, when I have to ask you quite a few times to get ready, I find it really difficult. I’ve got stuff to do as well and I start feeling really stressed. I’m not quite sure what to do about it but I find it really hard.”
6. Try to avoid the patronising but irresistible desire to say too often, “I told you…”, “How many times do I have to say…” or other comments that come with a tone. Instead, when you’re dealing with repeated and frustrating behaviour, have a conversation about this at a separate time. Try saying something like, “I really don’t want to nag you about getting your stuff ready for school, how do you think we could do this differently?”
7. Say sorry when you could have done better. For example, “When I said/did _______ that was not great. I shouldn’t have said it like that. I’m sorry. Next time I’ll try to _______.”
8. Ask your teenager for their ideas about how to improve your relationship. “Is there anything you can think of that would make it better between us?”
9. Try to focus on having some relaxation time for yourself so that you feel less stressed and tetchy. This is so important. It will help you be at your best when things are at their worst.
If things are really challenging, it might be time to get a little support. You can do it. Lead your own change.
Tulsi will be running Teen Talk: a communication workshop for mums and tween/teen daughters on 25 June 2017 in North Sydney
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