Parenting Tips: Bonding With Your Teen.
Bonding with Your Teen
We define our teens
A child’s self-esteem and self-worth is directly linked to how their parents see them. I know that as parents we often feel powerless in our teens’ lives, because they seem to need us less and they don't depend on us like they used to do when they were younger. But this is mainly a façade. No matter what your teen says or how they behave, your approval of them is still extremely important to them.
So how do we help our teens to become emotionally happy and healthy?
It is quite simple: unconditional love. All too often in my years of teaching, teens have come to me worried that their parents are going to be disappointed in them because they got a ‘B’ instead of an ‘A’ on a test, or they made the ‘B’ team instead of the ‘A’ team. In speaking to them it became quite apparent that these teens felt that they only had their parents love and approval if they excelled at school and/or on the sports field. This is something that you want to avoid. Quite often it is a case of miscommunication and mixed signals. In order to avoid this try the following tips:
Tell your teen that you love them and are proud of them at random moments. Like when driving home from school. They will more than likely ask where that came from and/or why you are proud of them. This will open up a chance for you to tell your teen all the things you love about them: the way they laugh at your silly jokes, or how they helped their younger sibling with homework, or because they are kind or simply because they make you happy. Concentrate on their character and positive things that they do, don’t include things like the ‘A’ they got on their test (that is for another conversation). By doing this you are reinforcing in your teen that you are proud of them for whom they are and not for what they have achieved.
Compliment, compliment, compliment. Make sure your compliments are sincere and truthful. Teens can smell a lie and hypocrite from a mile away. If they look good in their new jeans tell them, or if their new haircut looks good let them know. This will help to boost their self-esteem and make them feel better about themselves.
Note all the positive things your teen does and thank them for it, even if it is part of their chores. It does not have to be every day, but maybe at the end of the week throw in a, “Thanks so much for doing your chores so well this week. I really appreciate it.”
Every so often offer your child a reward for doing good work, or completing all their chores, or improved behaviour. Humans, not only teens, respond well to incentives. Rewarding positive behaviour will set positive neural pathways in your teen’s brain, in other words, they will automatically begin to act positively because they know it feels good. Don’t make the rewards large, rather make it something small and personal; like taking them for waffles and ice cream or getting them that book they have been ‘dying’ for.
Ask your teen about what they have been up to. But make sure that you sound interested rather than suspicious. You want your teen to get the message that you care about them and want to keep in touch with their lives. As your teen gets into the habit of sharing with you, and sees that you are taking an interest in hearing about what they are doing, they will be less likely to see your monitoring as prying. By showing interest in their lives, friends, and activities, you strengthen your relationships with your kids.
Support your teen in their activities. Wherever possible, go watch them play in the sports match or perform on stage. Tell them how proud you are of their performance, regardless of the outcome.
Light up when your teen comes into the room. Subtle signs in body language will send messages to your teen as to how important they are to you.
Giving of your time.
One of the most important things that you can offer your teen is your time. We live in this mad, hectic world and this stops us from spending real quality time with our teens. This can cause us to become disconnected from them.
When spending time with your teen, try to organise real one-on-one time. I know this can be difficult, especially if you have other children and a spouse to accommodate, but it is not impossible. These ‘dates’ with your teen do not have to be a whole day thing, see if you can organise just an hour or two. You can turn these days into family days. You can take your teen (or one of them if you have two or more) and your spouse can take the other/s. Each group can go off and enjoy themselves then meet up later for a family lunch. It is a wonderful bonding time for the family as you swap stories about what each group got up to that day. If you do it this way though, remember to give each teen in your family alone time with both parents at some point. It can take some time putting it together and running it, but believe me the rewards will be well worth it.
The rules of ‘Teen Date Night’:
The activity must be your teen’s choice. I know, I know…but believe me it makes it interesting. I loathe Arcades – I hate the games, the lights, the sounds, I hate basically everything about them. On one of our outings, my daughter chose for us to go to the Arcade (of course). I had to suck it up and go. We rode motorbikes through Paris, skied down the Alps, killed zombies from the future and played air hockey. While I have to admit that I had much more fun than I had anticipated, the joy on my daughter’s face was all I needed to know that I had done the right thing. When we got back to the car, she was beaming. She had already messaged some of friends to tell them what she had been up to that afternoon and said, “My friends all say that I have the coolest mom, ever.” That type of happiness you just can’t buy.
It must be regular – it’s not going to work if you do it once and then never again.
If you arrange a date with your teen, you must stick to it. A lot of damage will be done to your relationship, if you arrange to take your teen out, and then you renege on your promise. Your teen will feel like they are unimportant to you, and they will not trust that you have their best interests at heart.
Set a budget. I know in this economic climate it is not always possible to have elaborate and expensive outings. But a limited budget shouldn’t stop you from organising something fun to do with your teen (our Arcade outing cost hardly anything). I know that I said your teen should choose the activity, but if your budget is limited you can explain this and give them a set of activities from which they can choose. If movies are one of the choices, then your teen gets to choose, which movie you get to see, or if they choose a picnic then they can choose where you go for the picnic and so on.
Have FUN, FUN, FUN. Now is the time for you to let your hair down, and just enjoy the activity with your teen. Put the parent role aside for a couple of hours, and show your teen that you know how to enjoy yourself. This will not detract from your leadership role as a parent, but it will allow your teen to see you in a different light. It will help them to relate to you on a different level, and that is the whole aim.
The time you spend enjoying yourself with your teen, will be the fond memories that they take with them into adulthood.
Spending and enjoying time with your teen is not only for their benefit. I have also discovered that it helps us to parent better, when we let go of that strict, stern, parent role from time to time. Often we get so caught up in what must be done, how it must be done, and by when it must be done that we forget what is really important. Taking some time to relax helps us to put things into perspective.