Staying Connected to Your Teens

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While I will never, ever, ever claim to be an authority on the subject of parenting teens, there are a few things we’ve learned along the way that I wish someone would have told us sooner.  I think these will vary from teen to teen but maybe there are one or two things here that can help you and your teen stay connected?!

  1.  Spend a lot of time together

We noticed in our family that as our boys got bigger we started spending less time with them, simply because they didn’t seem to need us as much.  They were fully capable of playing out in the cul-de-sac without us and we could head out for a few hours and leave them at home very safely.  This meant that gone were the days of everyone doing everything together all of the time and for our family, we didn’t like that it meant all of us were spending so much less time together.  It takes so much time and so much effort to stay connected to our teens and it’s so easy to let it slip because we’re tired.  But getting out there and shooting hoops with them, taking them along on our shopping trips and treating them to a starbucks, allowing them to play their music out loud instead of on their headphones (even if we hate it!), taking them to the movies they want to see – all of these foster time together and create a connectedness that we’re so happy to have with our boys.

2.  Listen to everything even if it bores you to tears

Do you think I have any interest whatsoever in the differences between the Playstation 3 and the Playstation 4?  Do you think I delight in hearing the stats from the basketball game in excruciating detail?  Do you believe I’m entirely interested in the latest skateboard video that was just completely amazing?  Yeah, I’m not.  I don’t.  And I couldn’t care less.  I mean, if it were a stranger rattling these things off to me I couldn’t care less.  But what I do care about are my kids and so I care deeply about what they care about and I allow them much time and give them much attention when they’re going on and on about these trivial things.  Why?  Because if I seem distant or shut them down with the trivial things they’ll never decide to come to me with the big things.  And if they’re giving me all the stats about the basketball game, chances are at some point the story will turn to who was playing and who was watching and where they all went afterwards and what so and so did that was so funny or how they got their feelings hurt by someone else.  But if I don’t give them the chance, we’ll never get to the good stuff!

3.  Don’t trust them too much

Yes, I really do mean this!  I started out parenting my teens with the utmost trust.  I wanted to believe the best of them and I figured that if I showed my trust they would want to live up to my highest standards.  What I learned though, was that while we want to trust our teens to a certain extent, we also want to acknowledge that they aren’t always trustworthy and so operating with some caution and even, dare I say distrust, can be wise.  Because if my boys know that I trust them implicitly, then they’ll know that I’m never checking up on them.  And if they know that I’m never checking up on them, then the chances are that I’ll never be too worried about what they’re doing.  And if I’m not worried about what they’re doing then they can probably get away with doing whatever they want.  It’s the whole, “If you give a mouse a cookie…” story.  So I firmly believe that a healthy distrust is important.  Check in.  Ask questions.  Poke and prod around in their lives.  Let them know you know what websites they’re visiting, that you question the unaccounted for time in their day and that while you WANT to trust them, you know that they are tempted to bend and break the rules just like you are!

4.  Stay up later than you want

Sleep has always been one of the most important parts of my day.  We’re talking 9 hours of it every single night if I want to be coherent and functioning.  I’m an early riser so this means that an early bed time has always been essential.  But then along came these teenagers who simply are no longer tired at 9pm and are barely ready to turn in at 10!  I’ve had to learn (though I’ve fought it every step of the way!) to stay up much later than I want to.  Why?  Because my teens are up later and if they’re up, I want to be up.  (See #3)  It’s also a time that teens start to unwind and when teens start to unwind is when they talk.  For some reason, the later it gets the more they divulge (See #2) and if we want to know what’s going on in their days then we need to sit up in the dark with them (See #1) and let them get it all out.  Even if it means we need a nap the next day!

These four things all work in combination with one another and while they’ve taken some getting use to, we’re happy that we’ve implemented them into our regular days.  Teens take just as much work as toddlers if we want to be connected to them!  It’s different work, less physical and more emotional, but it’s time and work nonetheless.

Believe it or not, no matter what they say, no matter how many times they put those headphones on or close their bedroom door – they want this time and effort from us!  Try it, I’ll think you’ll see its true.

2 thoughts on “Staying Connected to Your Teens

  1. Great post Rhonda! I couldn’t agree with you more! I’m so tired by the end of some days, but that is when they open up most! And yes, I don’t fully trust them either. Sometimes too much freedom is detrimental to a teenager or any kid. Thanks for sharing your wisdom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know the feeling, Val! There are days I’m so tired and I just want to crawl into bed – and I do. But I try not to make it the norm because it truly is when they need us.
    Also, glad I’m not the only one who distrusts their teens! It’s a healthy distrust, right? (because we know their evil little hearts. ha!)

    Like

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