Thank you to Karen Corcoran-Walsh for this guest post on how to improve your relationship with your teen. Karen’s profession is in helping teens and adults with substance abuse and these tips are so valuable in helping teens avoid drug abuse problems. They are lessons that are important to all parents with kids of any ages and are things I talk about in Naked Parenting, I believe in these ideas.
By Karen Corcoran-Walsh
1. Spend time with your teen
It’s all too easy for parents to be sidetracked right when their children need them most — in the teenage years – because our teens are so much more independent now. Our teens need our undivided attention. The fact of the matter is, parents need to spend more time with their children when they reach adolescence, not less.
Unfortunately, this is also the time when the kids get busy with school, sports and youth group activities, and parents are often at the peak of their careers. We’re all busy, but it’s essential that you chisel out time on a regular basis to give your teen your full attention.
A busy, stressed-out parent may allow things with their teenager to go on autopilot, and to allow them segregate themselves and spend too much time alone. When their teen makes mistakes, and they will, the parent may respond in ways that don’t always convey unconditional love. This engenders the building of the proverbial wall between the parent and teen in their relationship and suddenly the teenager and parent become distant.
You see, teenagers need their parents more than they will ever admit. And when the relationship is broken, it is all too easy for a teenager to start down the wrong path in life. When they do, it is a wake-up call for the parents.
Relationships with teenagers thrive when time is spent together, in a setting where everyone agrees, that nobody is perfect and unconditional love is received by all.
2. Feel the Love
Your teenager’s most fundamental need is to feel loved by you. By feeling your unconditional love, he or she is better equipped to handle the bumpy road of adolescence. Your teen needs constant affirmation of your love. Think of it like a bank account that only accepts relational currency.
On the flip side of the coin, every negative interaction is a withdrawal. If you withdrawal more than you deposit, you deplete your teen’s account, leaving your teen feeling abandoned and unloved. Instead of expressing that to you, he or she may misbehave, act out in school, have tantrums, or rebel. This turns opportunities for connection into power struggles which leave everyone angry and discouraged.
Your goal is to keep your teen’s emotional bank account as full as possible. By doing this, when the inevitable “clash” arises, your teen has enough relational currency to cover it.
3. Spend Time Together … One-on-One
Of all advice you hear or read, this one you cannot ignore. Spend individual and focused time with your teen each and every week. Make it a habit. Take your teen out for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, malls, movies – the list is endless. Even if they resist or say they are too busy, you must insist. This tells your teen “You are worth spending time with.” Drive together or meet in a place you can talk and come prepared with a topic to discuss that interests your teen. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Remember, your positive interactions with your teen must outweigh the negative.
Listening is one of the most powerful, yet under-appreciated ways of displaying affection and to improve your relationship with your teen. True emphatic and active listening demonstrates a sincere interest in the other person. You can do this by asking questions and listening intently to what your teen is saying. Remember, listen more and answer less.
5. Show Your Teen Affection
Showing your teen affection can be a tricky thing. Due to developmental changes, you may find that the way you expressed love in the past may not work as well now that he/she is an adolescent. Your teen may act embarrassed of you or reject you and push you away. For this, a pat on the back, touch on the shoulder, high five or fist bump may be more appropriate now. Follow your teen’s lead on this one, especially when it comes to timing, place and manner. If you’re not sure what to do, ask, trust me, he’ll tell you. Although it may seem like your teen doesn’t want your affection, nothing could be further from the truth.
When you keep your teen’s emotional bank account full, you’re able to form a stronger connection between the two of you. A strong connection leads to better communication and a deeper mutual understanding and helps you to improve your relationship with your teen. Make regular deposits!
Karen Corcoran-Walsh owns and runs two substance abuse treatment centers in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. One is for teens – Inspirations for Youth and Families – and the other is for adults – the Cove Center for Recovery. They are both licensed to treat dual-diagnosed clients. In layman terms, dual diagnosis is the term used when a person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and a problem with alcohol or drugs. A person who has a dual diagnosis condition has two separate illnesses, and each one needs its own treatment plan. Click here to read an earlier guest post on Mother’s Circle by Scott Brand, Ten Warning Signs of Teen Marijuana Addiction: What Parents Need to Know.
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