How to have a Strong Connection with your Teen
My ultimate goal for parenting teens has always been to have a relationship with each teen child – no matter what happened in my parenting journey.
Having a strong connection with your teen is what will get you through the teen years and beyond.
It is one of my greatest blessings today, that even as they have all left home, we enjoy each other’s company and value each other’s input into our lives.
A relationship goes two ways – I enjoy them, and they enjoy me.
A healthy relationship doesn’t happen just because I’m the parent and they are the child.
A healthy relationship grows as we get to know each other, as we share life together and as we share our inner thoughts, dreams, passions, and values.
The Best Ways To Connect With Your Teen Child
To build healthy relationships and connect with our teens we need to be committed to the idea of having a relationship.
This goes beyond the connection we have as parent and child. That is a certain relationship, but if we want to speak into our teen’s hearts we need to go to the next level.
We need to build and nurture a relationship where there is intentional ‘know, like, and trust’.
There is so much tension in a parent’s heart about the teen years. The reason is that the teen years are characterized by our children stretching their self-determination muscles. This is a good thing!
But unless we are prepared for it we take it personally. We get fearful and we clamp down and control and limit our child.
The teen years should be the time when our kids are stretching their moral muscles. A time where they are learning what it looks like to live a life of character and conviction. One where they are learning how to balance their spheres of life and be true to their beliefs.
They need our help to grow strong faith and moral skills and they need our help to navigate into the adult world. That being said, we cannot force our way into being heard.
By the time our kids get to the middle of the teen years, they will only listen to the voices they invite in. This is a part of growing up.
So the key is to be such a person that they invite in.
5 Keys to Building Connection with your Teen
1 – Respect the personhood of your child
To be honest, we should be respecting the personhood of our child right from the beginning. Our child has been made in the image of God, with a uniqueness that God intended. Each of us express that uniqueness in our personality, our preferences, our strengths and weaknesses, our passions, our quirks.
Parents are all too quick to see the impact of sin in the world (and in our child’s heart) that we forget that God made every aspect of our child.
It is His purpose for our child to flourish and He will use their personality, abilities, passions for His purposes.
Instead of trying to fix our teen we need to find a way to celebrate who they are.
2 – Think the best of them and desire the best for them
Unfortunately, our culture has developed a suspicion around teenagers – we fear what they may do, we fear that they will walk away from their roots. We basically don’t trust them.
This is unfair – it is certainly unfair to come at the teen years with this mindset.
My oldest two approached me one day and asked me why they needed to rebel. As they heard it, this is what was expected of them (not from me, but from the culture around them).
I asked them a simple question: What would you rebel against?
They thought about it and decided they didn’t need to rebel against God because they loved Him; they didn’t need to rebel against me either because I was for them, and they loved me too.
For sure, there were times of conflict (both in their relationship with God and with me) but the bottom line was that they knew that I wanted the best for them and that I was on their side, I was for them.
Whatever our teen does comes from what is in their heart.
We can choose to trust that good is in our teen’s heart or we can choose to live in fear.
3 – Choose to care rather than control
As our teen grows up the way we parent has to change.
How we parent has changed in each season of life with our kids.
Initially, they needed us to nurture them as babies.
Then we needed to instruct them on how to do life.
Then we started to teach them the ‘why’s’ behind the actions (spiritual and moral truths).
These seasons we are the one in control – the boss or the instructor. But as our children start to be able to make choices for themselves, their needs change.
As they make good choices, choices based on the good we have taught them, they start moving away from needing a teacher.
Instead, they need a coach.
- Someone who will stand beside them and help them dig deep and be all that they can be.
- One who will be an objective observer, giving solid feedback and support as they continue to grow in the ability to live life making their own choices.
- A person who will hold them accountable.
When we come to our teens from a place of caring for them, instead of controlling them, they will respond differently.
Teens don’t necessarily want to do life on their own – but they do want to do their life.
4 – Desire peacefulness
One of the verses that kept going through my head as I lived with my teens was Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” And yes, that includes my teens.
It is up to me to choose love – unconditional love, it is up to me to forgive, it is up to me to be patient, kind, etc.
This doesn’t take away that as the parent, there were still times where I had to teach or correct but it addresses my heart.
I used to say to my kids all the time – you can’t control what the other person does, but you can control you.
The same goes for me, the same goes for any parent of a teenager. We can’t control what our teen does, but we can control me.
In any interaction I had with my kids that was leaning toward conflict I had to really work at this; I wanted to be a person who reflected who God was and what He had done for me.
Living peacefully is about having the right attitude towards the people you live with – and that is my choice.
5 – Listen & ask more than tell
As a coach, not teacher we have to learn to listen and ask questions rather than jump in and tell. There is a lot going on in a teen’s heart and life. Sometimes they aren’t necessarily showing us the whole picture.
Ask questions to remind your teen that you are interested.
By listening to their answers we are showing them that we respect them.
Don’t squash the vulnerability of them sharing what is going on in their life by telling them what to do about it.
You want your teens to feel safe and trust that we are truly there for them. That you want the best for them and that you will show unconditional love.
Then they will invite you in more and more, but it isn’t a given. Trust is earned.
A phrase that Peter and I have constantly come back to is:
When you show character – people begin to respect you…
After time, that respect – grows into trust …
After time that trust – builds a relationship…
When you have relationships with people – you have influence into their lives
As our teens grow in respect towards us, they open their hearts to us. We then have the opportunity to influence their thinking and choices.
Relationship to Connect with your Teen is a Thing
Relationship is a powerful thing – but it starts with our own choices as a parent.
When we take on board each of these five attitudes we will relate to our teen differently. We will be open with them, we will be available and kind.
The Bible is full of wisdom about how to relate to people. Though none of these pearls of wisdom are directed specifically towards a parent and teenager, the reality is they are just as valid in this relationship as any other.
Can you imagine the change in your relationship if you took the ‘one another’ verses and applied them to how you relate to your teen?
- Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you – Romans 15:7
- Carry one other’s burdens – Galatians 6:2
- Be kind and compassionate to one another – Ephesians 4:32
- Don’t grumble against each other – James 5:9
- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling – 1 Peter 4:9
You can download a complete list of these One Another verses here and start working through each and every one in your relationship with your teen. I am absolutely positive that you will see a change in your heart and a connection grow with your teen.
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Belinda Letchford writes at Live life with your Kids! Where she encourages parents to build strong relationships, shape their children’s hearts and use the whole of life to teach character, wisdom and life skills. Belinda and Peter have four children, who are now all adults – and the last has just recently left home. Now that the kids are all adults life looks very different but they still find it a joy to be available to their kids as well as seeing what this next stage of life brings for them as a couple. You can also find Belinda on Instagram and Facebook.