You want to respect your son or daughter’s privacy, but you worry the two of you are drifting apart. You want to give them space, but you also want to be involved in their lives. Sound familiar? If you’re the parent of a teenager, chances are you’re walking a tightrope between standing back and smothering them, and maintaining that balance can be stressful. These simple strategies will help you keep in touch with your teen, respect their privacy, and build and maintain a close relationship as they grow.
1. Write Them a Note
A handwritten letter is a great way to let your son or daughter know you love them and that they make you proud. Don’t text or use social media – your loving gesture could backfire if it embarrasses them in front of their friends. Remember that teens may not seem especially grateful for this gesture at first, but it counts for a lot when they understand that your love for them is constant.
2. Make the Most of Car Rides
If you thought managing a 5-year-old’s behavior was hard, it’s a cakewalk compared to raising a teen! Whether you’re just checking in or need to bring up an important issue, chatting in a nonthreatening (and contained) environment such as the car can work wonders. Try to keep the conversation light and topical – ask about their classes, sports they participate in, or the upcoming prom. You might be surprised by what they end up sharing with you.
3. Be Curious – but Respect Their Privacy
Show an interest in their lives – their best friends, their favorite movies or bands – but also know when to take a break from the questions. Most teens grapple with a combustible mix of emotions like love, fear, anxiety and hope, and too much prodding will cause them to throw up defensive walls. Watchful waiting is your best tactic here. Stay connected, but always give them space.
4. Be Prepared for the Puberty Talk
“Watchful waiting” is also great advice to keep in mind when dealing with topics like self-care, hygiene and periods. For your son, be prepared to talk about topics like shaving and deodorant when the time comes, and help him choose products that will make these important self-care steps easier, like Old Spice deodorant and Gillette Fusion ProGlide razors. For your daughter, be on hand for questions and concerns after she starts her period, and introduce her to Always Radiant pads or Tampax tampons to give her comfortable protection and peace of mind. Your nonjudgmental, on-the-sidelines attitude about these topics will be much appreciated.
5. Show Them Respect
If you want to raise a teen who is respectful toward others, make sure you’re leading by example. At its most basic, respect is showing consideration for other people’s rights and feelings – the right to talk and be listened to, for instance. So even if your blood is boiling from an argument, don’t blow up. Listen, respond and explain your thought process. Remember, you’re the grown-up in this situation – be sure to act like one!
6. Listen More Than You Talk
If your son or daughter seems determined to trigger every parental hotspot you have, biting your tongue and simply listening will probably take some practice. So much of good parenting involves letting go of your judgments or assumptions about your teen’s behavior. Hear them out, and when you do speak, get your message across calmly. Accept that you may need to compromise in the name of family harmony. It’s not giving in – it’s showing flexible thinking and trust in your teen that they’ll act responsibly with the extra freedoms they’ve been given.
7. Give Them a Break
Try to remember what it was like to be a teenager. Those years were a lot of fun, but you probably felt anxious and confused a fair amount of the time, too. Your teen is no different, and he or she is going to need extra support from you. Going easy on them doesn’t mean that you’ll raise a disrespectful or irresponsible adult. Sometimes you just need to be on their side when they feel like the rest of the world is against them.
This article is brought to you by Always, which reassures and empowers parents to bond and maintain a dialogue with their kids.