Getting into screaming matches over simple things you ask them to do? Feeling like you want to give up because your relationship with your teen seems irreparable? Struggling to connect with them in any way that doesn’t produce an eye-roll? Raising teens is HARD, people! We have adult-sized humans with childlike brains walking around in our homes and knowing how to interact with them in healthy and helpful ways can be challenging. Here are 5 ways to improve your relationship with your teen:
Put on Their Glasses
Take a minute to see things from their perspective. How would you feel after a long day at work when your boss yelled at you for something you didn’t feel was valid? You may not feel like cooking dinner and taking care of laundry when you got home! Teens sometimes have really hard days too. If they are particularly moody or are giving a little more attitude than normal, consider that something may be bothering them. Try asking if there is anything they need from you or if there is something they would want to talk to you about. I usually spell it out: “You seem like you are having a hard time today; did something happen at school?”
Cry When They Cry
As parents, we often feel the urge to fix our teen’s problems. If they begin to tell us about their bad days and they are sad about something a friend said that was mean or something that a teacher did in class, we feel that uncomfortable feeling rise up within us and our first thought is, “how can I make this better?” Many times this leads to advice-giving. Recently, my college son called me, crying over some rejection he had experienced. It was gut wrenching. I felt so uncomfortable and powerless on the other end of the phone. He was miles away, hurting deeply. I wanted desperately to “fix” what he was going through, take away his pain, and make it better. I found myself fighting against this urge with all I had. Instead, I told him I was so sorry. I told him I was sad too. We sat on the phone and cried together for a few minutes. Eventually, I began telling him the things I saw in him that made him the gift that he is to the world, but I started with crying with him. You will be surprised how much more “helpful” grieving with them is than trying to give them a quick fix to something that, many times, is not fixable.
Laugh When They Laugh.
What does your teen think is funny? Join with them in laughter. Often, our teens will try and tell us stories about their days and want us to laugh at the things they find funny. Sometimes, it isn’t all that funny! Laugh anyway. Delight in them, enjoy them, and help them feel that you can have fun with them. One of the ways we do this in our home is by sitting next to each other on the couch and looking through old pictures and videos on our phones. All of us will be crying with laughter as we look at old, silly memories.
Wholeheartedly Accept Them
Just because they are different than we are or don’t have similar interests as we do, doesn’t mean they need to change. Each of our teens has unique passions and interests. They may not follow our paths or find value in the things we value. As a professional counselor, I see many teens struggle with the expectations placed on them by their parents to achieve certain grades, perform certain skills, or play certain sports. I promise you that your teen knowing that you love and support them no matter how they perform will go much farther in making them healthy, thriving adults than them achieving a high SAT score or getting a scholarship for baseball.
Initiate Repair quickly.
We are going to fight with our teens. We are going to have disagreements and arguments. The single most important thing we can do as parents to improve our relationship with our teens is to repair with them quickly. Allow the conflict to de-escalate and then pursue them. I honestly have to do this daily with my teens. I always try to find something I can own in the conflict and apologize for it. This paves the way for them to do the same and for repair to happen.
We hope these tips help you improve your relationship with your teen. What other advice would you give to moms of teenagers?