I promise: your teens want to talk to you. They want to share their emotions, feelings, and talk about their deeper thoughts with you. It may not always seem that way, and maybe they are unsure of doing it too. But I see it firsthand over and over again: once barriers are broken down, teens find a sense of relief in opening up to their parents.
We all remember the times when we finally talked about something that’s been troubling us and felt better afterwards. Parents are the closest person to their child. The parent/child bond is a special one, whether biological or not.
So how do we get to a place where our teen is openly sharing and we can be there to comfort them? Comforting your kid means connecting with them. Connection and comfort go hand in hand.
Ideally, this is something we foster over the years with quality time spent together. One great way to cultivate closeness and connection is through rituals and traditions. It’s a shared experience for you and your kids–something you all can count on. A time that feels secure and consistent. Finding times to laugh, dance, and partake in fun activities together. Showing interest in their interests. And of course, showing your love for them through affection.
As our kids get older, they have more responsibilities. We can get stuck in the “to-do’s” of life, both theirs and ours. Life gets busy. We find ourselves tending to more of what needs to get done and less time connecting. One of our jobs as parents is to keep our teens on task, helping them get done all they need to get done, and making sure they are successful. In fact, when I ask teens what percentage of interaction with their parents is positive, most say around 30%. When I ask them what makes up the negative 70%, it’s the “to-do’s” of life. “Did you do this?” “Why didn’t you complete that?” “You need to…”
The fun and the connection can get lost. We end up being a parent more than a mom or dad. Let me explain.
Being a parent is hard! We are constantly straddling what I call the mom/ dad role and the parent role. I know I love being a mom and at times dread being a parent. I think connection is easy when it’s the mom role. But the parent role is like walking a tightrope. I find myself asking, how can I parent and stay connected to them? It’s difficult! When I think of parenting, I think of keeping them on track, homework, consequences, and lecturing. I want to run the other way. And I’m pretty sure my kids want to run too–either isolate in their rooms or at least turn their ears off.
Being truly conscious of when we are in these roles is key. In a perfect world, we could be in the mom/dad role most of the time and less in the parent role. That would make connection and openness so much easier, wouldn’t it?
How do we make sure we are cultivating more mom/dad time than parent time? It has to be a conscious effort. Find ways you can make space for those moments every day. And I mean every day.
When I look back at the years spent with my older kids, those are the times of connection. That is when they could relax, open up, and they felt my love the most. Those are the times that built the foundation for the close relationship I have with them today. The times when I had to move into the parent role often lead us to disconnection.
If you’ve never had that open relationship with your kid and talked about feelings and emotions, it is never too late to cultivate a closer relationship. One where you can comfort them in their difficult moments. And, oh how meaningful that relationship can be for both of you!
Let them know this is something you want in your relationship with them. Figure it out together. You never know, maybe they have been thinking the same thing. (They probably have!)
Talk about the fears you have in trying to change your relationship with them. Don’t let your fear get in the way of connecting with your kids. When we carry fear, it can look like many things to the other person. Fear can translate into avoidance, anger, and can be misinterpreted by the other person as not caring. Examine your own fears and ask them about theirs. You might be surprised how talking openly can increase closeness, connection, and the ability to be there to comfort your teens.
Remember what you did when they scraped their knee. It will always apply no matter how old they are. Listen, comfort, reassure.