How to Reach Your Teen’s Heart
By Barbara McRae, MCC
How would you rate your relationship with your teen daughter or son? If you are unsure, or you want to double check your answer, imagine hearing the sounds of your teen entering your house. Now ask yourself this question: How do I react when I hear my teen coming home?
Your honest answer will instantly reveal what’s really going on for you. Do you feel relieved and happy that your child is home or do you sigh as your stomach tightens? If it’s the latter, it’s time to stop pretending that everything is OK and begin to take an inventory. Instead of listing all of the things that are annoying you, pay attention to all the things that are going well.
Granted this could be a short list as parents experience changes in their children, at the preteen stage, when kids are programmed to begin carving out their self-identity. I often hear, “Before my children started middle school, we rarely argued about anything. Now we seem to go head-to-head every week.” Teens will question you, try on different view points, and assert their independence. Parents often wonder what happened to their lovable kid! He or she is still in there. Believe it or not, this too shall pass.
In the meantime, you can minimize the number of conflicts you have by identifying the areas where you can agree and place your attention there. This will increase your connection. Establishing a heart-to-heart connection is critical as your parent-teen relationship evolves. Here’s how:
1. Make a Heart Connection.
It’s all in the connection. Thinking positive thoughts about your teen, helps you get into a natural state of rapport. You know you have rapport when you feel peaceful and conversations are a breeze. Without rapport, the relationship suffers. Find something you both enjoy talking about or doing together. Keep the connection alive.
2. Be Willing to Dance.
As a child strives for self-identity there will naturally exit a push and pull between parent and teen; adjust your style accordingly. Be flexible. Sometimes your teen will act like she’s 30 years old and at other times it feels like she’s only three. Your teen often feels just as bewildered as you.
3. Cultivate Curiosity.
Listen to what your teen wants to talk about. Let it be about him, not you. Have him tell you “his story” without interrupting. Pretend you are listening to the smartest person you know and you don’t want to miss a word!
4. Communicate Respectfully.
Demonstrate empathy and refrain from freely dispensing advice. When your communication becomes a one-sided lecture, it usually gets tuned out. Get more information before you say anything. Manage your feelings. Take deep breaths if you have to.
5. Show your Appreciation.
Every child was born with special attributes. Know what they are for your teen and comment on these daily. Go beyond her performance. Say, I really appreciate ________ about you. Make it specific and personal. Be real. Teens know when you’re not authentic.
6. Spend Quality and Quantity Time.
Schedule a weekly date with your teen. Often parents believe that teens need less from them than young children. Not true. Teens need for parents to stay connected with them so that they can feel their parents’ love.
7. Help Teens Solve their Problems.
Let them talk through their concerns and options. Let go of the “fix it” mentality. It’s been said that if you carry a person long enough, eventually his legs will stop working. Empower teens to find their own way with you, as their gentle guide.
Whether you want to change your relationship with your teen from “bad” to “good” or from “good” to “great,” it begins with you. You are the parent, the leader, the coach! Connection produces a foundation of mutual trust and respect so that you can show genuine concern for your teen’s welfare and future. In doing so, you’ll create a powerful bond that lasts a lifetime!
Barbara McRae, MCC
Teen Parenting Expert, Campus Calm
© Barbara McRae
Barbara McRae, MCC is a nationally known parent/teen expert, bestselling author, host of Bridging the GAP Radio Show, and founder of www.TeenFrontier.com. She is passionate about easing stress and enhancing parent-teen relationships. Her unique teen advice parenting approach regularly appears online, in print, and in the media. Barbara’s licensed facilitators deliver Coach Your Teen to Success ™, Coach Your STUDENT to Success™ and the Study of YOU™ programs internationally.