If you’re a parent, you undoubtedly want a good relationship with your kids. Before they’re even born, you’re praying for them, loving them, and envisioning the future.
So why does it get so difficult to stay actively involved in your kids’ lives as they become teens?
In adolescence, your kids begin to pull away from the family, seeking more independence and freedom. This is a developmentally appropriate thing – they are beginning to prepare for future adulthood!
Of course, not all teens handle this with respect and maturity. But regardless of your teen’s words, actions, or the discomfort that you feel as they begin to pull away, this stage of life does not mean that you as their parents are simply kicked to the curb with no further influence.
Here are four tips for staying involved in your teen’s life, even as they begin to pull away:
- Set limits in the house on technology use: phones, computers, TV, Netflix, social media. These boundaries are healthy for your teens, but they are also healthy for you. Don’t ask your kids to put down their phone if you aren’t willing to put yours down with them. Use the time to talk, share meals, or just be together.
- Continue to get to know their friends, and their friends’ parents. Will your teens ask you to be involved in their peer group? Will they want to ask permission before they go out? Probably not. But their peer group is hugely important to them, and has a significant impact on their decision-making during the teen years. Stay involved.
- Allow them to plan some of the family activities. You may notice your teen’s taste in music, movies, and activities changing during adolescence. It’s okay if their interests don’t match your interests, but it will be meaningful to them to see their parents trying to learn about what they are interested in. It will be easier to have family time together if they enjoy the activities.
- Ask questions… without forcing them to answer. Your teen will probably have days where he or she feels like talking (and maybe it feels like they can’t stop talking) and days when they want to isolate and withdraw. Do you remember puberty? Hormones? Peer pressure? Adolescence is tough. Don’t expect your child to answer every question, but don’t stop coming back for continued dialogue. Keep them open-ended (“Tell me about…”), positive and encouraging (“You do such a good job with…”) and if they seem annoyed, it’s okay to hit pause, walk away, and try again later.