Most parents feel a little disconnected from their teen.
But that doesn't mean that your teenager should shut you out all the time, or that you shouldn't continue to make an effort to engage with them. There is a balance between giving them space to develop into the independent adults they'll become, and supporting their growth and development with regular check ins.
This can be especially difficult if your teen is often angry, at you and/or at others.
Below you'll find a few tips for helping your teen open up to you more, even if they have problems coping with their anger.
Tip 1: Set time for a family tradition
This can be something as silly as a Taco Tuesday, or an expectation that they will be at the dinner table with the whole family at least 2 times a week.
Tip 2: Make time for fun
Along with engaging in a weekly family tradition, set aside time for low pressure activities to do together, such as watching a movie of their pick or going to Ikea together. You may even have them make a suggestion for a weekly or monthly outing. And when the whole family is participating, try to avoid negative comments or corrections, and really focus just on connecting as a family.
Tip 3: Avoid judgement
Even if your teen has gotten in trouble at school for an angry outburst, or even if they slam the door in your face, take the time to listen to their perspective without jumping in. Let them know that you want to hear their side of the story, before you deliver a consequence.
Tip 4: Introduce non-triggering topics
By the point your child is a teenager, you know them pretty well (even when you feel like you don’t) - so during family activities, introduce a few topics of conversation that you know won't set off your teen. Of course it is important to process why the got into trouble at school, or why they may have yelled at a friend, but you want to protect some time just for relationship building - without lecturing them on what they should be doing differently.
Tip 5: Take the pressure off of yourself
Give your teen the opportunity to approach you with concerns or questions as well. Don't introduce every topic. Chances are, if you notice a strain in your relationship, your teenager definitely notices it as well, and probably wishes a few things were different. It can be helpful to let them know this, saying something along the lines of:
"I know that we haven't been connecting as much lately, and I want to make sure we can change that. So on my end, I'm going to set up a few things we can do each month, and I'll expect you to participate in these - but I also want to give you the opportunity to change a few things. So, let me know what suggestions you have to make our relationship feel more comfortable, and I’m really looking forward to your help on this!"
Parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to change things - give your teen some of that responsibility as well!
Curious to hear more? Kelsey Torgerson specializes in anxiety and anger management for pre-schoolers, elementary schoolers, middle schoolers, teens, and college students. She provides cognitive behavioral therapy through her Clayton office. Families come from University City, Ladue, Creve Couer, Town and Country, Brentwood, and surrounding St. Louis areas. Reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-339-7640.