Education Matters

Staying connected to your teenager while giving them space

Posted by Trinity Grammar School on May 10, 2018 6:00:00 AM

Staying connected to your teenager while giving them spaceParenting a teenager can be challenging. It is inevitable that a child who once seemingly idolised you and held your opinion and advice above all others, will rebel against you once they hit teenage years.

Developmentally, teenagers experience a lot of changes – physically, mentally and socially. How they navigate those changes will have a critical impact on the type of adult they will grow into. It is important that teenagers learn how to make good decisions, act independently and build their own sense of identity.

While some teenagers will naturally withdraw from physical contact with their parents, seeking their own space and independence, it’s still important that an emotional connection and closeness is maintained. There are a number of ways to stay connected to your teenager but the key is in maintaining a meaningful dialogue that reassures your child that you understand their emotions and feelings.

It is time in which your son will want to assert his independence, making his own decisions and mistakes. It’s important for his development into adulthood that he is allowed to experience the highs and lows of making his own choices independently.

Our role as parents is to provide a loving, safe environment for teens to fall back on when they need it. When a teenager comes to you with a problem, they seek empathy, reassurance and advice. Follow these simple steps for staying connected with your teenager while giving them space:

1. Stop
Pause for a few seconds to think about your child’s problem before responding. Very often when we are faced with an emotional issue, it is easy to react quickly and without careful consideration. 

2. Authenticate
Reassure your child that these feelings are OK. It’s important for children of any age to have their feelings validated. 

3. Empathise
Relate to your child by providing an example of a time when you experienced a similar situation and let them know how you dealt with it. Even if your solution was not successful or could have been improved, this information can still help your child come to their own resolution. It’s better to refrain from giving overt advice.

4. Maintain close connections
Culturally, we are inclined to assume that children who have strong connections with their parents will be less independent. However, research has found just the opposite. Dr Irit Yanir from the University of Haifa found that strong family connections are an important factor in forming an adolescent’s identity and independence. “It seems that not only can independence and closeness exist together, but they actually flourish together,” he said.

Creating strong family connections is becoming increasingly more difficult as we juggle hectic schedules and busy lifestyles. Statistics tell us that children are feeling more and more detached from their parents and so making time for meaningful connections away from screen time is vital.

5. Make time to spend together
Take time at the start of each week to review your schedules and identify when you can make time together as a family. The focus needs to be on the ‘time’ element. Your teenager needs to know and feel that they have spent time with you. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, it can be as simple as sharing favourite stories from your childhood or a discussion about who has inspired you in your life. Some other suggestions to promote strong family connections include:

  • Fun and creative mealtimes
    Plan to prepare a meal together one day each week. A fun idea is to select a different cuisine each week and really go to town with condiments and even table dressings.
  • New shared experiences
    During family holidays, participate in an activity that is new to each family member. These kinds of shared experiences will create memories and stories for years to come.
  • Get moving
    Go for a walk together. You can even try a new route each week. Getting teenagers, especially boys, outdoors and moving is a great catalyst to get them to open up.
  • Volunteering
    Volunteering together is a fantastic way of creating strong bonds and shared values. Community and service activities are also character building and can enhance spiritual connections at a deep level.
  • Include friends
    Forming relationships with your teenager’s friends can keep you connected to what is happening in your son’s life. Accepting your child’s friendships is important for trust building and demonstrates that you have faith in your child’s decisions. Inviting friends to family activities and even holidays are great ways to enhance those relationships further.
  • Power of prayer
    Praying as a family can be uplifting and comforting for your son. It enables him to reflect on all that he has and should be thankful for. Prayer can provide spiritual guidance and comfort.

For over a hundred years Trinity Grammar School has educated boys in mind, body and spirit. Our mission is to provide a thoroughly Christian education for boys from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12, imparting knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, and recognising the importance of spiritual qualities in every sphere of learning.

Fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, we aim to know, understand and nurture each student to help him realise his potential, passion and purpose in life.

Trinity aims to provide the best environment for boys to flourish and succeed. To learn about the Trinity difference and to discover why we’re one of Sydney’s top boys’ schools, subscribe to our newsletter.

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Topics: Parenting tips, Fathering, Raising boys, Adolescence