Parents often dread the adolescent phase with their kids. Suddenly, their sweet, adorable children who couldn't stop hovering around their legs, want an identity of their own. While we were met with non-stop chatter for the "how was school" questions earlier, we now encounter monosyllabic answers, if any at all!
Scientists studying the adolescent brain confirm that changes to the teenage brain are real, and teens undergo massive changes in their pre-frontal cortex -- which explains some of their risky (stupid?) behavior. They also confirm that as much as teens require us to be their friends, they appreciate and in fact require boundaries from adults, making them feel safer.
However, it is always a challenge for parents to strike the right balance to get teenagers to share their lives with them, while also respecting their growing needs for privacy.
Here are a few ways in which parents can bond with their adolescents:
Make family conversations routine: Establishing a weekly family routine for conversation exchange is a great way to get teens to talk without feeling interrogated. The earlier the routine is established, the better, as this will invite lesser resistance to the practice.
Know their world: Today's kids face immense pressure to fit in -- both online and offline. Kids feel a lot of difficulty (and shame) in discussing their challenges. For example, a victim of bullying may believe it's his fault and never come out with it. Cyber bullying makes it more complicated because it is much more visible and shaming. Parents would do well to understand the implications of their children's online identities and refrain from making embarrassing comments or posting pictures.
Respect their friends: Friends are important for everyone. For a teenager, they take on a special fiery significance. Most kids are in a position to share things freely with other kids because they don't have the stress of setting a context. They feel easily understood. In fact, some adolescent therapists say that they have received tip-offs on some alarming behavior of kids only from their friends. Parents should make an effort to get to know their children's friends to really be in the know.
Involve them in fun ways: One of my uncles had a great way of engaging his teen daughter. Every day, before going to work, he would ask his daughter to pick up a cool combination of clothes for him to wear; so he doesn't feel old! He called her his "personal fashion consultant" and this would open up avenues for many more conversations. Involve your child in picking up a cool hairstyle or take them shopping for your clothes. It is great fun to watch your children's individual tastes unfold.
Listen more: Sometimes, children just need someone to listen. Even worse, they just need you to be hovering around them, without exchanging one word. They find an adult's presence reassuring.
Work on their interests together: Taking a genuine interest in the changing world of your teenager is perhaps the best way to bond with them. She might show a sudden interest in learning guitar or studying a foreign language. Engage in a conversation about why it is important to them and find the best way to encourage them, even if they blurt out a reason like "My friends are all in it!."
Establish boundaries and confront mistakes: Even though children might look like they are pushing for independence, they need control and boundaries. The Palo Alto academy explains that teens who are not expected to comply with boundaries are likely to develop a general sense of disrespect for the world around them.
Recognize their efforts: Adolescents face a lot of failure. The odds are that they face more failure than success at this juncture. As parents, we are tempted to judge their efforts based on results, but psychologists confirm that observing the child and appreciating the efforts is the best way to develop a sense of mutual respect and great work ethic in the child.
About the author:
Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder and editor of Kidskintha- a platform dedicated to helping millennial parents raise happy kids. Get your own FREE copy of the eBook "137 Proven Productivity Hacks For The Millennial Parent" now.