Connecting with Tweens and Teens

Contributed by Jody McVittie, MD

Back a long time ago when you decided to have kids you probably imagined talking to them, playing with them, taking care of them when they were sick. You probably imagined that when you talked to them that they would respond. You’d be interested in them – and they’d be interested in you.

Funny how it doesn’t always work that way. Your teen might want you now (especially when you are busy) and then, when you do want to spend time with her, she is busy texting or is just plain non-communicative.

Some hints:
Remember back to when you were a teen. Can you remember thinking that your parents didn’t “get it?”
Know teen development. Many teens begin to figure out who they are by figuring out who they are not. They often start with the people they know best. You. As your teen works hard at being “not you” it’s easy to take it personally. Relax. The values he grew up with are still inside being sorted out. Teens move to independence before settling into interdependence.
Limit your battles by looking long-term. (A messy room does not mean she’ll be a slob forever.)
Create regular routines. Family dinners are particularly helpful. Leave the TV off. Listen to what is important to your teen.
Work and play together. Make sure that the jobs in your family are shared. As teens mature they may get tired of the regular “set the table” kind of job and want more of a challenge. Solve that problem together. Short after dinner games are another way to connect.
Be willing to say no. It is not your job to keep your teen happy but rather to be clear about your values. Arguing or negotiating is generally not helpful. Try, “I’m not comfortable with that.” Teens respect parents who respect themselves.
QTIP. Quit taking it personally. The look. The snarl. The silence. It is not about you, it is about them. Being a teen is hard.
Get support. Being the parent of a teen can be lonely. You may be ashamed of your teens behavior and/or feel alone. Join with a group of other parents either to share or to build your skills. Check out the Sound Discipline website events calendar for upcoming talks, workshops and classes.

Join us for a short parenting talk: Beyond Breakfast & Bedtime Battles: 5 Tips for Peace at Home
Sound Discipline is hosting the evening to share, celebrate and support our work in schools. We hope you can join us September 26th at the Phinney Center. 6:30 PM Suggested donation $10. It helps us if you register in advance.

Sound Discipline is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Photo Credit: GoodnCrazy