Since we work with teens, we often see distance and miscommunication between parents and their teenagers. Teens say that their parents don’t get them, or maybe don’t care, and they think they don’t have much in common. Parents say they don't know how to reach their teen. Both sides seem to have a desire to strengthen their bond, but don't know how. With that in mind, here are a few quick ways to connect with your teenager:
1 - Conversations are a good place to start. But, don’t just ask, “How was your day?” or "How are you?" Instead, ask some of these questions:
“What was the best part of your day?”
“What are you looking forward to this week/month/school year?”
“What are you most dreading or most nervous about?”
These questions are open ended, meaning your teen can’t just answer with a “good/bad”, or “yes/no”. These questions are thoughtful, show that you want to try to better understand them, and can help to start more meaningful conversations. Take the opportunity of driving in the car to chat, or when you are working on making dinner together. It's usually easier (and more natural) to talk in situations like these where you are physically doing something.
2 - Listen to music together. Recent research shows that listening to music together can be a great way to connect with your teen. Have them play some of their favorite songs for you. Then, ask what they like about the song or artist, what the song means to them, or what feelings that song brings up. A rule here: No judgment of songs, or negative comments about the music they are sharing. Be appreciative that they are sharing their favorite music with you. Sharing a musical experience, whether driving to soccer practice in the car together singing out loud, or at a concert, can help the two of you to bond. And, while you’re at it, share some of your favorite songs with your teen too!
3 - Ask them to show you how to play their favorite video game. As long as the two of you can have patience with each other, this is a fun way to switch roles and have your teen be the expert! Have them teach you the trick of their favorite game, and play together!
The common thread with these ideas is spending more time together. Developmentally, teens often want to spend more time with their peers. But rather than just being with their friends, or alone in their rooms, these are some ideas that can bring you together. Shared experiences, and even just more time together, can help you connect.