Tuesday 6 February 2024

Tips For Staying Connected With Your Teenager

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Rejection can sting, especially when it comes from your own child. When kids are young, they tend to be completely attached to their parents, often appearing as if they can never get enough attention or affection. As they grow older, though, they naturally begin to change, typically pushing their parents away and opting to get closer to their peers instead. 
As the parent of a teen, it can be difficult not to take this personally, especially considering how deeply you love your child. However, it’s also important to remember that this is a normal part of development and not a sign of failure on your part. 
With the right mindset and tips, it is possible to maintain a relationship with your teenager, even if it looks different than you expected. Keep reading to gain insight into the teenage mind and discover tools and strategies for connecting with your teen as they grow up. 
Why Do Teenagers Push Their Parents Away?
Before attempting to connect with your teen, it can be helpful to try to understand them better. It may seem like your child changed from one day to the next, and while this can be confusing, remember that it’s them going through the process and they’re probably just as confused. After all, they’re dealing with changing hormones, mounting academic pressure, their first romantic relationships, and so much more. Before getting upset with them, consider all that’s on their plate during this stage of development.
The reason for teens pushing their parents away is actually biologically based. According to a study by Stanford University, at around age 13, “kids’ brains shift from focusing on their mothers’ voices” to favoring “new voices.” This results from the biological signal that drives teens to separate themselves from their parents. So, it’s not that teens are choosing not to listen or connect. Rather, they aren’t hearing you in the same way they did before, making it more difficult to prioritize what you have to say or offer. 
While it’s natural for teens to pull away from their parents, that doesn’t always make it any easier to cope with. However, there are ways to keep the lines of communication open and connect with your teen so that you can continue to build a new type of relationship with them. Below, we’ll discuss some of these strategies. 
Typical Teen Behavior Vs. Cause For Concern
Not all concerns can be attributed to growing pains. Sometimes, there may be a deeper issue at play that’s affecting how a teen relates to their friends and family members. Certain mental health disorders can make it more challenging to stay connected with others and maintain healthy relationships, such as personality disorders. 
Stress and hormones can cause teens to respond in unusual ways. However, if your teen is displaying irrational, extreme behavior or reacting in any overly intense manner, these could be signs of a mental health condition, such as a personality disorder. In these cases, you may consider getting a licensed mental health professional involved. With techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, it might be possible to manage the symptoms of these disorders and live a more productive life. You can read more about CBT and specific personality disorders by visiting this link: www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/a-guide-to-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-narcissistic-personality-disorder/
Tips For Connecting With Your Teen
After establishing that there aren’t bigger concerns to tend to first, you can begin the process of trying to connect with your teen. Note that if you desire to maintain a positive relationship with them, there are some changes you may need to adapt to. Gaining your teen’s trust and respect often requires time, effort, and consistency, as well as showing a genuine interest in them. The following tips may be useful as you try to establish a connection with your child during their teenage years:
Throughout the course of parenting, highs and lows are inevitable. Remember that your child’s journey through their teenage years is a period of transformation for each of you, full of changes and learning opportunities. While it may be challenging at times, it can also lead to personal growth and allow you to strengthen the connection you share with your child. By respecting their boundaries, listening more than speaking, and making an effort to get to know them as they grow up, you can lay the foundation for a blossoming relationship.

▪ Practice nonjudgment: When your teen comes to you to talk about their life, it’s important not to judge them. While you may not agree with their mindset or decisions, feeling judged may only push them away further. Do your best to listen and try to understand where your child might be coming from. Instead of reacting to what they say, focus on responding with compassion.
▪ Respect their boundaries: As a parent, you’ve probably set rules with your teen to keep them safe and raise them well. Just as your teen should respect these boundaries, it’s also crucial to respect theirs. For example, there may be topics that your teen doesn’t feel comfortable discussing with you. Rather than pushing your child to open up, be patient and give them the chance to come to you. 
▪ Remind them that they’re loved: In order to develop positive self-esteem and secure attachment, children need to know they’re loved. Showing love goes beyond saying “I love you” and can also include giving words of affirmation, doing something helpful for your teen, spending time with them, or giving them hugs and kisses. Everyone shows and receives love in different ways, meaning that your teen may need something specific from you (like a pat on the back after they’ve done something well) to feel loved. 
▪ Avoid criticism: When you don’t agree with your teen or feel disappointed in them, it can be easy to criticize them. However, doing so may cause them to pull away from you. Instead of being critical, try to point out what your teen is doing well and then follow up with gentle reminders of what they could do better. 
▪ Show an interest in them: Any close relationship requires effort and consistency, and the one with your teen is no different. Although your child’s time may be wrapped up in friends and hobbies, it’s still important to find ways to spend quality time with them. Asking your teen what they enjoy and showing an interest in what they have to say can promote bonding, trust, and closeness. Being accepting of your child’s friends can also be helpful, as friendships are often invaluable in this stage of life. 

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