Every parent wants a better relationship with their teenager. There are plenty of books and online articles offering advice and guidance on just how to go about it. However none of it really helps unless you are willing to take action and actually change something.
The busyness of modern life does not make it any easy, as the controlled daily chaos often leaves our best intentions unrealised and unexpressed.
So in this post I am going to make it super easy for you to take action and implement changes that will improve your relationship with your teenager. There are 15 simple things you can do almost right away. There is nothing on this list that requires any extra training, money, or special talents or skills. Any parent can implement everything on this list. The key is actually doing it, and doing it consistently!
The more you put into practice the more relationship will improve.
The risk of reading a list like this is to say “I know all that” then continue on as normal without actually changing anything. Knowing what to do and doing it are 2 entirely different matters. Honestly ask yourself “Am I actually doing these things or do I think knowing is the same as doing?”
You’re probably already doing some of these, but I doubt you are doing all of them, or are doing all of them consistently. If you are dong them all consistently, please tell me in the comments or send me an email – I would love to know your secret!
To make it even easier for you to take action, I have put together a checklist based on the 15 action steps that you can download and print off. So no excuses, print off the checklist and mark off each activity when you have taken action or completed the relevant steps, then review regularly.
So here we go, 15 simple tasks to improve your relationship with your teenager;
To be done every day, even if you are geographically apart. Use phones, Facebook, emails if you are not in the same place on any given day. There is real power in relentless consistency of the everyday encounter.
#1 Connect With Your Teenager
The minimum here is a conversation that involves finding out something about them and/ or you sharing something about you. It could be as simple as “What was the best thing about your day?” or “Guess what happened to me today?” Don’t ask “How was your day?” as you will only get a grunt or “okay” in reply.
There are lots of other ways you can make a daily connection with your teen also – see some more ideas here.
Take 5 minutes to come up with a simple list of questions or activities that require your teen to actually engage with you with more than a grunt.
# 2 Tell Them You Love Them
This doesn’t have to be a big speech just a simple ‘I Love You” every night when they go to bed, when you get home, or as they head off to school.
It doesn’t even have to be verbal, send a text message or Facebook message (private of course). Even better try going old school occasionally and leave a note on their pillow!
Words alone don’t make someone feel loved, but hearing them regularly reinforces the message your actions convey.
#3 Know Where They Are
Taking the effort to know where your teenager is conveys to your teen that you care about them (even though they might make out you are being unreasonable). It is also a wise thing to do as a responsible parent.
Set up some boundaries and ground rules about what is required before your teen goes out anywhere. While your teen might resist and carry on at first if this is a new regime, the message of concern and care in conveys will assure your teen of their value to you and cement the relationship.
Warning: Don’t go overboard expecting them to check in every 10mins, and don’t pester them with constant messages when they are out. You need to trust your teen and they need to learn to be trustworthy.
These things aren’t by any means restricted to only once per week, but in many modern homes achieving each of these once a week is no small effort. But, if you can schedule each of these activities into your weekly routine both you and your teen will benefit.
# 4 Have Meals Together
By have meals together I mean everyone who lives at home sits down around a table to share a meal at the same time with no TV, no Phones on, no iPads or computers at the table. Only eating and talking face to face allowed.
With the busyness of life and the nature of modern families, sitting down to a meal 7 nights a week is not often achievable. But aiming for 3 nights a week, while challenging for some, will deliver positive short term and longer term results for both you and your teenager.
# 5 Have One on One Time
Time with just you and your teenager. At a minimum, this could be the drive to music lessons or sporting practice, or some part of the weekly routine.
What matters is being intentional about the time together. Be fully present with them, focused on making a meaningful connection.
If possible find a time where the two of you get to do something together for at least half an hour. This doesn’t need to be a time of deep and meaningful sharing, but just time “being” together and see what happens.
#6 Ask Your Teen’s Opinion
When watching TV, or listening to music on radio, or just talking about something you heard during the day, make an effort to ask your teen what they think about it and try to find out more about why they think the way they do.
And it is not just for the incidental or spontaneous conversations, get your teen’s thoughts on what the family can do on weekends or holidays.
This only works if you also respect their opinion and try to appreciate their point of view. Don’t try to convince them of your opinion or warn them of the weakness of their own.
If you are feeling really brave why not ask your teen for some fashion advice!!!
#7 Encourage Your Teen
This doesn’t mean sprout empty praise to your teen.
Tell them something you appreciate about them, affirm them when you see them trying hard, congratulate them if they achieve, thank them for their contribution and tell them what it means to you, tell them you are proud of them.
Teenager’s gain loads of confidence and feel really valued when they hear their parents talk positively about them, especially when the words are meaningful and not hollow praise.
The one warning with this action is that it is mostly best done in private – encouraging teens in front of their peers can be more embarrassing than uplifting.
#8 Show Interest In Their Interests
Watch their favourite TV show with them, watch them play a computer game (offer to play too – even if you are hopeless), take interest in a new app on their phone, watch their game on the weekend, sit in and listen to them practice piano… just show an interest in something they like.
If you don’t know what your teen is interested in then make that your goal for the week, to find out. Your goal for following week is to express interest in whatever it was you discovered.
#9 Ask “Is Everything Okay?”
Just ask a simple question, “Is everything going okay?”at least once a week. Really simple, but really important.
Don’t interrogate with persistent questioning. The goal is not to keep asking until there is a problem. The goal is for your teen to have a firm belief that you care about how they are going and have a genuine interest in their welfare.
Expect 99% of the time for your teen to simply say “Yep” or “Sure”. It doesn’t need to be a big conversation. What matters is you ask regularly so that on the 1% of the time things aren’t okay they know you care enough for them to share with you.
These activities don’t work on a weekly basis but are more suited to less regular time intervals. But just because they are not regular does not mean they are optional. Make a plan to do these just as you would the other activities on the checklist.
#10 Surprise your teen with a treat
Surprise them with something pleasant for no reason other than you value them.
This is not to be a reward for an achievement, but rather purely spontaneous expression of love for your teen.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, cook their favourite dinner, leave a favourite chocolate bar on their pillow, take them to their favourite cafe after school, relax their curfew for one night, or let them have a movie marathon of their choosing.
Who doesn’t like a nice surprise!
#11 Review Boundaries & Give More Freedom
If your teen has been responsible and demonstrated trustworthiness initiate a change in a boundary that allows more freedom; like later lights out on school night, later curfew, more time with technology, greater access to the car.
When a parent initiates a boundary extension it sends a great big message of respect, validation, and trust to your teenager. Not only does this improve your relationship, it increases the likelihood of your teenager honouring the new arrangements because they won’t want to disappoint you.
#12 Celebrate their success
When your teen does achieve, be sure to acknowledge it. It could be through a special meal, a small present, a big hug and dance around the room, inviting friends over, or anything fun you can think of. Big celebrations of the big achievements, small celebrations for the smaller successes.
Success is not just about winning, although that is good too, celebrate the stuff that is an achievement for your teen.Success can be when your teen puts in a massive effort and has persisted through a challenge.
This is the stuff of life that you can’t plan, but just have to learn to do. The way to plan to improve at this is to either set aside some time every month or so to think back over your behaviour and note where you have done well and areas you need to improve. If possible, an even better way is to sit down with your partner and do the review on each other (if you don’t have a partner asking a close friend to help you be accountable is another way).
#13 Treat Them With Respect
Regularly check, or ask your partner if you can, have you spoken to your teen respectfully, not used insulting names, said please and thank you regularly, honoured their privacy etc. So many parents complain about their teenagers lack of respect but fail to check their own behaviour as a possible contributing factor. What you model is more important than what you tell your teenager.
#14 Say Sorry
This one seems so easy to do; it is surprising how often parents don’t do it!
There is little downside to apologising when you have genuinely made a mistake. But there are plenty of negative consequences that occur when parents don’t say sorry to their kids. Make you apology genuine and be transparent, you might be surprised at the level of intimacy and openness it can create between the two of you.
#15 Listen, Ask, Respond (in that order)
Try to get into the habit of listening to what your teenager has to say, ask questions about why they did or didn’t do something, and once they have had an adequate chance to describe, explain, and share, only then do you get to offer your opinion or response.
This takes a lot of self-control, but if you can do it, your response will generally be more constructive and compassionate.
The more you do this, the more your teenager will feel like they “want” to talk to you because they believe you are really interested in what they have to say. Teenagers love it when they are the focus.
What you will also find is that once you have listened and sort to understand your teen, they will be much more inclined to want to hear whatever it is you have to say.
So there you go, 15 things you can start putting into practice today! Remember what matters is putting what you know into practice and doing so consistently
If you have some other actions you take that add value to you and your teen’s relationship feel free to add in the comments section below.
All that is left is for you to do is to DOWNLOAD the checklist and start doing.
Hope it helps.