Most parents don’t have a whole lot of things in common with their teen. Sometimes, you might even feel like there’s just no way to connect with your teen at all. Not only are you and your teen separated by a gap of years and maturity, but when teens are going through their self-identifying phase, their interests can change as quickly as the weather. They’re trying to figure out what they’re passionate about and where they fit in, and when you as a parent try to relate to them, it can feel like trying to hit a moving target. What makes the issue even more pressing is that it is absolutely essential for you to connect with your teen so that you can effectively help them get through these challenging teenage years.
5 Ways to Connect and Get Involved With Your Teen’s Interests
- Don’t force YOUR interests on them. A lot of parents get hung up on this one. Maybe football is a primary interest of yours and has been for a very long time, but your teen just doesn’t seem to care about it at all. The more you try to force your son or daughter to take part in and enjoy the things you are passionate about, the less likely they are to share your enthusiasm. In fact, a common element of the teenage years is their tendency to exert their independence by actively rejecting their parent’s identities.
- Let them choose. Whether it’s the Friday night family movie or just where the family goes to eat after her dance practice, let your teenager make some choices. By allowing this, you show them that you respect their independence and appreciate that they have their interests and freedom to express them.
- Talk to them about their body. There’s no easy way to do this; it’s awkward for everyone. The mistake that most parents make here is that they just avoid the discussion because it’s easier that way. However, facts are facts and it is simply a truth about the teenage years that one of your teen’s primary interests is their own body. As a parent, you can either choose to ignore this or face it head-on. Create a space where your teen feels comfortable talking to you about their body and use this space to encourage healthy interests, including exercise, healthy diet, and a rational approach to beauty products, clothing, and sex.
- Listen. Even when teens aren’t directly talking to you, they’re communicating a lot. This doesn’t mean eavesdropping on them or tapping their phones. Most of the time, just really, genuinely listening to them and trying to understand what they’re saying is sufficient. Sometimes teens will try to communicate indirectly, hinting at things or mentioning them repeatedly in hopes that someone will talk to them about it. Be the parent who picks up on these cues and opens the dialogue.
- Learn from them. If you can handle the teasing or eye-rolling, asking your teen to teach you things can be a powerful tool in bringing the two of you closer. Ask them to teach you how to use that new phone app you’ve been struggling with. Ask them to show you the new game they’re playing with their friends. Maybe pick up a book in that series your teenager always has their nosed buried in. Whatever their interest is, showing the humility, as a parent, to ask them to teach you something shows a profound respect for your teenager and goes a long way towards earning their respect.
No matter what’s going on, your teen is almost definitely not too far gone. The important thing to remember is that, no matter how difficult it might be to believe, your teen WANTS to connect with. Take these opportunities to connect with them and show them that you care about the things they do. This is a critical time for both your teenager and your family, and the more you can work as a unit to get through these years, the better the long-term outcome will be for everyone.