Repairing Relationships With Your Teenager
Written by WinGate Therapy, in Section Articles
Building and maintaining a relationship with your teen takes time, attention, and effort.
It can seem like things change overnight as children enter their teen years. They develop interests and goals that may not align with yours – and they don’t always want to share them.
But even if your teen sometimes seems like a stranger in your own home, you still have the power to foster a relationship of love and trust.
That requires a healthy dose of compassion along with willingness to listen to your teen without judgment. It takes strength and imagination to adjust the way you relate to your teen, but there is never a wrong time to get started.
These techniques can help:
Before you can improve a relationship, it’s important to define what hasn’t been working. This could take time – dedicate yourself to really observing how you interact with your teen.
Some questions you might want to ask yourself include:
- Where are you and your teen in conflict?
- What topics seem to “come between” you?
- Do you ever find yourself yelling or using demeaning language to your teen? When?
- What are the most positive experiences you regularly share with your teen? When?
Parents and other loved ones can feel angry and scared if they “can’t get through” to the teens they feel responsibility toward. It can help to write down your worries – not what you wish your teen would “do better,” but what you’re concerned about and why.
Clear expectations produce more harmonious behavior in teens. When expectations are aligned with a teen’s age and abilities, they are more likely to follow them without resentment. Unclear expectations can lead to confusion and the sense the teen “can’t do anything right.”
It often helps to write down expectations, but this should be a joint project between you and your teen. Discussing expectations, putting them in words you both agree with, and ensuring you each have the same understanding of them will make conflict less likely.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Communication is the heart of any relationship, and questions are the vehicle people use to learn about each other. When teens are evasive, it may be because they fear being judged. They feel interrogated when they hear too many “Did you ...?” questions.
Make time to ask questions that start in these ways:
- “What do you think of ...?”
- “How do you feel about ...?”
Developing relationships means wanting to explore and respect another’s inner world. For this to happen between teens and their loved ones, there must be a non-judgmental time you can use to relate to the teen person-to-person.
Letting teens “be who they are” means putting aside expectations, at least for a little while.
Set aside an hour a week and let your teen choose what you do and where you go. Give 100% of your time and attention to your teen during that hour. Even sitting in silence together is okay: The only rule is that cell phones and other devices should be off.
Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize
Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to apologize if you learn some of your past actions may have been hurtful to your teen. Feeling dismissed, belittled, or threatened can influence a teen for years to come. A genuine apology is a validation that leads to healing.
Sometimes, a rocky relationship with your teen can be a sign of bigger problems: Mental health issues or substance abuse, for example. In these sensitive situations, wilderness therapy can help.
To learn more or get started, contact WinGate today.