Parents feel nostalgic when they reflect on their child’s younger years, especially when that child becomes a teenager. Combined with hormonal changes, a new sense of independence can alienate you and your teenage son or daughter, so here are some helpful tips to win their trust.
Show Empathy and Compassion
Many parents confuse sympathy and empathy. Compassion elicits more of “I feel sorry for you” while empathy says “I am you.” Sympathy is feeling sorrow, or pity for a struggle someone goes through whereas empathy is putting yourself in their shoes.
For teenagers, empathy will work better than sympathy. Teenagers isolate themselves into a different category than adults, often adopting an “us vs. them” mindset. It’s essential to break down this barrier through empathy.
A common argument from teenagers is that “you just don’t understand.” Reassure them that you indeed do understand, and have gone through similar struggles both as a teenager and now as an adult. Imagine yourself as your child and try to see where these feelings are coming from. This will lead you to compassion, in which you want to relieve their problem.
Find Common Ground
You may think you have nothing in common with your teenage son or daughter. You may consider yourselves worlds apart. However, it’s more than likely you are both interested in one or more of a particular thing.
Both look and listen. Pay attention when your son tells you he’s going to the park to play basketball with some friends. Look when he browses basketball websites for the newest updates. Say you like playing basketball or watching professional sports on TV. Bingo, you have some common ground.
For men, this might prove easier with a son, but don’t give up hopes with a daughter. Pay more attention to the posters in their bedroom or the paraphernalia on their messy dresser. You might just think her bath bombs, and scented soaps smell pretty good. Besides, who can resist a bubble bath?
Now that you have some common ground try planning dates around them. Let’s go back to the basketball example. Surprise them with tickets to a professional basketball game. Together you can cheer on the home team, and have something to talk about on the ride home.
Let’s also revisit the bath bomb example. Treat your daughter to a spa day. You can get a foot scrub while they get their nails painted. Don’t forget about the massages.
A universally friendly date is going out for a meal. Let them choose where to eat to make them more inclined to go. You can chat before and after eating — comment on the restaurant’s decor, new movies, etc. — stay away from school (no one likes talking about school, and it could lead to an argument over grades and such). If your teenager is employed, perhaps show them how to split the bill.
You can plan dates around errands. Tell your teenager if they accompany you to the hardware store, they can choose where to go after. This will reduce the amount of complaining, but if they get rude, you can remind them the second destination is a privilege and can be revoked.
Don’t get irritated if they are on the phone unless you specifically want their help — what matters is that they are with you. Attempt to make friendly conversation in the car, and show interest in where he or she chooses to go.
Even if you loathe their music taste or don’t get the hype behind their favorite YouTuber, try to show interest. In general, people love to talk about what they enjoy. Ask to hear the new song by their favorite band or about that vlogger’s new video. You don’t have to listen to every word but asking about it will guarantee a smile on their face.
Enthusiasm can be as pure as a compliment. Before they leave the house, tell them you like their shoes or their purse. Your child may groan, but they can’t wholly deny the flattery and might warm up to you more for it.
Maybe you don’t even know what YouTube is. Try to look into social media and see how your teenager uses it. Always remind them of the dangers of the Internet, and instruct them not to post any personal information. Setting a curfew for technology is also a good idea since it can prevent them from getting enough sleep.
However, try to engage with your teenager through texting and social media. Don’t go overboard with the lingo or memes, since your teenager may get embarrassed. A quick good morning text or cute cat video can brighten their school day. Just make sure they aren’t on their phone during class (you don’t want to try to FaceTime during algebra).
Some video trends involve parents. If you’re feeling risky, see if your daughter wants to make a video of her doing your makeup. Alternatively, challenge your son to a prank war and get it all on tape. You then can share it with the rest of the family through social media (or keep it for the family archives).
Give Them Space
This tip may sound contradictory considering all the others are about bonding. However, teenagers crave independence. Seek small ways to grant them freedom, such as letting them travel on their own.
If your teenager tells you that your relationship feels suffocating or smothering, give them some space. However, try to sit with them and chat about what you can both do to make the atmosphere more comfortable and less overbearing. Communication is key.
Some teenagers experience anxiety and depression. If you’ve given them the space they need, but there’s no improvement in their mood, or it turns into isolation, it may be severe. Ask their doctor about what to do if you think it’s an impact on your teenager’s mental health.
Getting along with your teenager may sound near impossible. Following these easy tips should attempt sound less daunting and fun for the both of you. The most important thing is to secure trust while always ensuring safety and understanding. That will make you the coolest dad of all.