For many parents, one of the greatest goals is building a strong and loving relationship with their children. However, this can be difficult with a teen.
Finding the balance between being an authoritarian and a friend can come with challenges but it is something we strive to achieve.
When children are younger this is an easier reality to work towards. Younger children can often see the world in a much simpler way. We grow to learn about their triggers and the kind of approach that work best for them in terms of boundaries and consequences.
The kind of communication that we exchange with our younger children is a lot more to the point, leaving very little risk of any grey areas. They take it at face value and have very little reason to over-analyse or misconstrue what we are trying to convey to them. This can feel more complicated when our children become teenagers.
Building a strong relationship with your teenager is bound to be important to you. It may often seem as though you must compromise your rules or expectations of your teenager for a friendship to flourish and that just won’t sit right with a lot of parents.
It is difficult to accept that a relationship can only grow when boundaries and consequences are removed because these are the very things that help guide our teenagers into adulthood. It helps to keep them safe and to steer them in a healthy positive direction.
Teenagers are arguably more difficult to raise than infants or young children. Puberty and hormonal changes can lead to challenging behaviour and emotional issues.
It can feel like walking on eggshells is the safest way to approach any interaction that happens between you. Teenagers have a huge desire to be independent and this is often the reason why they appear to be so defiant and argumentative. It can lead to conflict and this can overshadow the relationship between you.
Spending time with your teenager may prove to be one of the most difficult aspects of the relationship. Unfortunately, it may seem “uncool” for them to hang out with their parents and they may not want to be seen with you in a social capacity.
That is a tough pill to swallow for parents. For this reason, it is a good idea to start in the home. Reinforcing that positive relationship and sense of trust can happen at the kitchen table or during a family movie night.
Quality time is more important than quantity and the end goal is to ensure that your teenager can enjoy your company, open up to you and feel safe at the same time.
Constantly putting an emphasis on the rules and boundaries you have set your teenager may lead to a sense of tension in the home. Instead, it might be helpful to focus on setting a good example.
Teaching them how to treat people is a lot more effective if they simply learn by watching you. The same can be said for how they approach hygiene and work/school responsibilities.
At the same time, it is important that your teenager understands and knows what the boundaries are both within the home and outside of the home. This is where strong communication is key.
Communication is made a lot easier when that quality time in the home becomes normal. It makes the home an open forum and safe place to discuss these kinds of things without your teenager feeling attacked. It can be relayed in a respectful and calm way, which is a lot more effective.
And finally, respect will be the most important thing that steers your relationship in a positive and strong direction. It can feel as though your teenager has very little respect for you when they become defensive and resentful of everything that you say.
In this case, it is really helpful to empathise with the reality of being a teenager. There is a huge amount of stress and anxiety on a peer level as well as that which comes from their education, body changes and sexuality.
Showing them a great level of respect in terms of privacy and the way you interact with them will, in turn, lead you to receive more of that from them. When they feel understood, they are a lot more open to communicating and spending time with you and this is the territory where relationships flourish.