Some of the relationships I’ve developed with teens over the years as a recreation therapist have been very meaningful. Building relationships is not easy, nor does it happen quickly; it takes time and effort to create healthy meaningful relationships of trust with teenagers. Adolescent years can be difficult for parents to navigate but having a strong relationship with your son or daughter can make all the difference. Below are four tips that might help you strengthen the connection you have with your teenager.
- Find out what they enjoy and learn about it
Ask them about a video game they enjoy, their favorite basketball team, or research the genre of music they like. Most teenagers have some hobbies or interests that they really care about. Learning about their interests demonstrates that you care and will give you more to talk about with your teen.
- Make time for them
Busy schedules make it difficult to spend time and really connect with your teen. Setting aside time for them (whether they are interested in spending time with you or not) is essential. Finding time for your son or daughter might mean eliminating other extra-curricular activities that you or they are involved in. It might even mean a change of job or relocating your home. Remember how the CEO of a multi-million dollar company resigned to spend more time with his daughter? Your teenager might choose to not spend time with you initially, but the effort won’t go unnoticed.
- Use recreation as a way to connect
Recreation is a non-threatening way to build a relationship and I’ve seen many meaningful connections made during such activities. Whether you go on a walk or a hike, play basketball, play a card game, or go to a community event, time spent together is a great chance to get to know your teen better. You might be surprised what you and your teen end up talking about. I’ve seen recreation lead to many open conversations about difficult topics. Additionally, having positive memories to look back on can help during trying times.
- Spend more time acknowledging their positive traits and behaviors
Parents sometimes focus on what their children aren’t doing well, but acknowledging positive traits and behaviors more often can change everything! At first this might be difficult, especially if you are frustrated with on-going battles but comments as simple as “thanks for taking off your shoes in the house,” or “I really like how thoughtful you are” will go a long way. Consistent, positive remarks have to potential to really change their perspective of you, and help with building a stronger relationship.
While every teenager is different and there is no single playbook, these four steps can definitely help you connect with your son or daughter.