7 Ways to Connect With Your Teen

by Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT


The teenage
years can be confusing and difficult for both the child and parent. These are
critical years as your teen learn about themselves and become more independent.
These years can be frustrating time for parents as their teen pulls away and
spends more time with peers. There can be arguments with your teen as they test
the boundaries.

Things need
not be complicated and there are many ways for you and your child to manage a
healthy relationship through mutual respect and love. All it requires is for you
to keep a cool head and exercise patience, as you adapt to the fact that your
child is now a young adult.

Here are seven
ways to build a better connection-

  • Make the Most of Daily Routines

When you are in the car with your
teen it can be a safe place for them to open up since you do not have to make
eye contact. They can feel comfortable letting their guard down. Go with the
flow and use these opportunities to talk about personal topics. Going shopping
with your teen is another time you can connect and learn more about them in a
low stress setting. It can also give you some insight into how they feel about
their body image. Doing chores together you can make it a friendly competition
to see who completes it first or work together as one person rinses the dishes
and the other loads them into the dishwasher.

  • Get Interested in Their Interests

Find out what your teen enjoys.
What is their favorite music, TV show, video game, or novel? Use these interests
as conversation starters and a way to get to know your teen better. Connecting
with them over their interests shows you care and want to learn more about

  • Be Calm

The teen years can bring struggle between you both and it is important to
remain calm and pause before responding. This is not easy when your teen
behaves rudely, but yelling and threats will only make it worse. Ask yourself
what your child might be trying to say? Remember they are stilling learning to
communicate and might need a little help to express themselves more
effectively. Take a deep breath or break if you feel you might say something
you’d regret. As the adult, it is important for you set the example.

  • Open Your Doors

Allow your teen to have their friends over. Let your house be a place
they come hang out at and have fun. It gives them a safe place to be with their
friends and also allows you to learn more about who they hang out with.

  • Be Understanding

Remember what it’s like to be a teen. It’s a time of rapid change in
their body, brain, and becoming more independent. Your teen experiences stress
from the growing responsibilities at school, home, and with peers. Your teen is
not going to be perfect. Show them compassion when they make mistakes. Be
available as a sounding board when they are working through challenges. They
need to know you love and care for them.

  • Listen

mom daughter

When your teen wants to talk to
you, you need to stop what you are doing and listen to them. They might need
some help with homework or to unload the events of the day. They need to know
that you’ll be take the time and be there for them. As a teen they may come to you
less than they did as a child and it’s important to make the most of each time
they need you.

  • Make a Date


Plan a date for the two of you to go do something they
enjoy. Let them take the lead. It’s also an opportunity for you to try
something new and let them be an expert.

Avoid these to keep
communication lines open

We know you want to keep communication lines open and that
it can be difficult when your teen holds back what’s going on. It is important
to give them some space as they are figuring out how to manage their peer
relationships as well as the stresses of school. It is important to avoid the
following as they will close up the communication lines and break trust.

  • Joking: You can use humor to dispel tension, but some subjects require a serious approach. Joking belittles the experience, making teens think that you’re mocking their problems.
  • Interrupting: Let your kids finish what they have to say before interrupting with your own opinions or thoughts.
  • Lecturing: No one wants to hear a lecture, least of all teenagers. Give them space before you talk about your own ideas.
  • Judging: Difficult subjects, like drinking and sex, require lengthier discussions, but before you judge your teenagers, be patient. Listen to what they have to say, and show them respect.

Start slow. You
don’t want to overwhelm your teen.

I know you may be excited to be all of these tips into
practice right away. Start slow. Talk to your teen first about spending time
together. You can mention some of these suggestions and see how they feel.

Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT is
a Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationships Matter Austin in
Austin, Texas. Carlene can help you and your teen open the lines of
communication again and rebuild their trust in you.  To schedule your
appointment with Carlene, you can reach her at (512) 994-0432 or request an
appointment with her on the Relationships Matter Austin Scheduling