What Every Parent Can Do Now To Form Better Connections With Their Teens
posted by: Amber Johnson
For my family, COVID-19 has been a mixed bag of blessings and trials with our teens. We were spared the physical fatigue that so many parents with young kids felt but our tradeoff was navigating mental health landmines and screen time battles. My teens are now in their sophomore and senior years of high school and I am grateful that we were able to spend a lot more quality time together during lockdown but I wish I had more resources for navigating this difficult time because it isn’t over yet.
Enter: Forward Together, a Colorado-based campaign, with fantastic resources to help youth feel more connected – to their peers, their parents, and other trusted adults in their lives — and to help parents connect with teens.
I have always had a sweet, tender “mama’s boy” relationship with my 15-year-old son. The pandemic just happened to hit at the exact same time he was naturally pulling away to focus on other interests while I inwardly mourned what felt like a growing divide between us.
I needed tools for navigating this confusing time and Forward Together delivered. Follow our journey and learn how to deepen your relationship with your teens.
What is Connectedness?
So, what does it mean to be connected to our teens? Connectedness is when a person feels a sense of belonging to their parents, family, friends, school, or community because they have strong relationships in those settings. These relationships are healthy when both parties feel heard, valued and loved.
How I Am Connecting With My Son
I have always had a sweet, tender “mama’s boy” relationship with my 15-year-old son. The pandemic just happened to hit at the exact same time he was naturally pulling away to focus on the other interests in his life while I was inwardly mourning what felt like a growing divide between us.
There are several elements that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives, according to research.
- Express Care. Show me that I matter to you.
- Challenge Growth. Push me to keep getting better.
- Provide Support. Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
- Share Power. Treat me with respect and give me a say.
- Expand possibilities. Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.
For my son, we have been focusing on Expanding Possibilities because if you know teenage boys, most are content to just sit on their devices most of the day. A few things that we have done this year that have made a huge difference:
Inspire. My husband and I are trying to inspire him to see possibilities for his future. He excels in math and science. We frequently talk about a possible career in finance or business while helping him identify other passions he has not yet developed. We encourage him to do his best in all his classes but to pay particular attention to the ones that bring him the most joy and showcase his talents.
Broaden horizon. We have tried to expose our son to new ideas, experiences and places. He recently quit soccer and found a new passion to replace it: the high school mountain bike team which has brought new friendships, along with new skill sets.
Connect. We have introduced him to people who have helped him grow. Almost a year ago, I saw a posting on a community forum about a small hobby ranch that was looking for a teenager to take care of their animals a couple of times per week. My son dove head-first and, when I am available, I try to help him but make sure to emphasize that he is in charge. He loves managing the ranch (and his mom) and working side-by-side has brought us closer together.
Though I mourn the parent-child relationship of his childhood, what we are building together is so much more mature and I’m learning it has so many wonderful rewards.
Do you need additional help? Here are some great resources that Forward Together recommends.
Here’s What to Ask Your Kids to Get Them Talking | En Espanol
20 Small Steps to Get Big Gains With Your Teen | En Espanol
Struggling to Connect? Start Here | En Espanol
Stay tuned for Part II as my husband and I work with our extremely talented and spirited daughter as she navigates her senior year and life post-graduation. Spoiler alert: We need direction and we’re glad Parents Forward Together is providing it.
In partnership with Mile High Mamas.