How often do you have significant conversations with your teen? When was the last time you had quality time together?
If you struggle to connect with your teen, you’re not alone. Reaching through an engulfment of hormones, across a generational gap and into their narrow worldview is challenging for most parents.
The key is to find ways to connect with them where they are. Adolescence offers a slew of trials for teens, so it’s important they know they can come to you while facing them. If you don’t have this connection established, teens are less likely to open up to you during crucial times.
What are they facing? Teens frequently suffer from a variety of issues like:
- Eating Disorders: Nearly one-third of teenage boys and over one-half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors. Between 35 and 57 percent of adolescent girls use self-induced vomiting, diet pills, laxatives, fasting or crash dieting.
- Gaming Addiction: From role playing games to simple phone apps, gaming continues to grow. Nearly one in ten gamers are addicted to video games.
- Depression: Between 10 and 15 percent of teens have symptoms of teen depression. In 2014, 2.8 billion adolescents aged 12-17 had at least one major depressive episode.
5 H’s of Healthy Teen Parenting
It’s essential to create an atmosphere where your teen feels comfortable sharing their struggles with you. You must remain aware of what’s going on in his or her life. To foster this type of environment, use the following tips:
- Hospitality: We all know how important friendships are during teen years. Make your house the go-to spot for your teen’s friends. Allow (and encourage) your teen to invite friends over. Make your house comfortable and inviting. If your home is the welcoming, warm, fun place for after-school and weekend hang-outs, you can become familiar with your teen’s friends and have a better handle on how – and what – your teen is doing.
- Habits: Establish traditions together. Eat dinner with your teen every night. Make a weekly lunch date with them. Go for ice cream every Sunday afternoon. Play a card game once a week. Find ways to bond with your teen and create special memories together. It’s likely during these moments that your teen will open up about a struggle they’re facing.
- Heart-felt Hellos: Teenagers (especially boys) may be less physically affectionate than they were as kindergartners, but they still need affection. Insert love throughout their day with warm “good mornings” and “good nights.” Tell them you love them frequently. Leave them a note that tells them how proud you are of them. Constant reminders of how special they are to you can go a long way at keeping the lines of communication open.
- Hobbies: What is your teen into? Athletics? Art? Animals? Find ways to not only encourage their passions but also participate in some way. If they love baseball, play catch with them. If they love horses, take them riding. Get involved in the things they are excited about.
- Hearing: This is the lynch-pin. You will thwart any other efforts you make to connect with your teen if you aren’t successful at this one. Listen. Teens want to know you are interested in what they have to say. This may mean hearing about a zillion things that you know are insignificant but feel huge to them at the time. But, this encourages them to view you as the person they come to with their struggles. Be willing to listen whenever they need to talk, ask questions or simply cry. If they know they can trust you with the little things, they’re more likely to trust you with the big things.
Additional Reading: Social Butterfly: Hanging Out Stunts Substance Abuse in Teens
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