The Teenage Years

JoFamily Life, Parenting

Connect emotionally with your teenager - photo of a young teen sitting by themselves on a beach

How to stay emotionally connected to your children through their teenage years

When a child becomes a teenager, it can be difficult for any parent to navigate. You may start to feel as though your child has got a whole life of their own that you’re no longer a part of, and begin to worry that you’re losing the connection that you once had.

Despite what you may hear, there is no reason that the teenage years have to weaken your relationship with your child. With a little help from some friends, I’ve created a guide to some of the ways in which you can stay emotionally connected to your child through their teenage years. Not only connected, but potentially even ways to strengthen the bond between you.

Give your child a reasonable amount of space

When you feel as though you’re losing someone, it’s normal to want to grab onto them a bit tighter. While it may be your initial instinct to do so, this could be counterproductive. After all, if your teenager wants space, not giving it to them may build resentment, or a desire to rebel.

What you can do is compromise and find some sort of balance. Consider giving your teen space when it’s feasible and safe to do so, and save the watchful eye for when it’s really necessary. This might look like allowing your teenager to be in their bedroom with their door closed for a few hours, without asking what they’re up to. It could be allowing them the privacy to have a phone call with their friend without snooping. It might even be gently supporting them in making plans for their spare time without nagging or taking over. Then, when you need to talk to them about something serious such as self-harm or social media safety, you can do so without them feeling like you are being too overprotective. Conversations can flow more naturally and they won’t feel as though you are always trying to take over the director’s seat in their life.

Connect with your teenager - photo supplied by Rich Smith via Unsplash
Photo credit: Rich Smith via Unsplash

Support their interests

When your child was little, it was probably a lot easier to connect, as small children are interested in anything and everything. When it comes to teenagers, understanding and supporting their interests can get a little more complicated.

Definitely don’t go so far as to pretend that their favourite band is your favourite band, or start wearing the same clothes that they are wearing. The key to supporting your teen’s interests is as simple as asking about them – even if the new hobby they’ve taken up isn’t one that you would have chosen for them – or is the kind of activity that you might consider a teenage phase. To your teen, this interest is an important part of their life, and your recognition and acceptance of that will help them to feel seen and heard.

Be there for them

This one may seem obvious, but the fact is we cannot fully be there for our children if they are not telling us the truth. Often, we try to tell them that they can tell us absolutely anything – but then our anxiety and fear get the best of us, and we give them a good telling off when we’re not happy with what we’ve heard.

While it may be hard at times, it’s safer to have children who confide in you. This gives you the opportunity to be in the know, rather than having children who hide their lives from you for fear of getting in trouble. So, try to be present, accepting and non-judgemental when you have these chats – this is probably collectively our top tip, as there is no better way to strengthen a parent-child bond. You could even take this a little further by arranging gentle, unpressured time away which can lead to very honest exchanges.

Connecting with your teenager - Eye for Ebony via Unsplash
Photo credit: Eye for Ebony via Unsplash

To sum up

Rather than resist the teenage years and the changes that are happening, try to welcome the new dynamic between you and your child. Let them take you along for the ride, and adapt to being the parent of a teenager. After all, this is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of some of the most defining years of your child’s life.

N.B. This is a collaborative post. Some photos have been supplied via Unsplash. Please do not use any photos within this post without permission.