Being a parent is tricky in general, but it can be especially tough when your child becomes a teenager. This is a time of burgeoning self-identity and lots of stress. You not only need to parent your teen, but you also need to show them that you understand and can relate to them. To make this happen, you need to create a rapport with them.
Get to Know Your Teen
You might look at this and balk. Surely if anyone knows your teen, it’s going to be you, right? While you might know things like their general likes and dislikes, there’s likely all kinds of information about them that you’re unaware of, such as their hopes for the future and developing interests. Take time to ask what’s on their mind. Ask it in a casual manner when the two of you are in a relaxed environment. Be sure to not press them for more information than they’re willing to give, as this can make them feel like they’re under interrogation.
Listen to Understand
There’s a difference between listening to respond and listening to understand. When you listen to understand, the focus is on the speaker exclusively. Listening to understand can impact your ability to influence the mental health of your teen. If they’re going through something like depression, they can feel trapped in a void where no one hears them. Show your teen just how seriously you take them and their struggle by listening to understand. You can exhibit sympathy by nodding and maintaining eye contact. Respond only if they have questions for you.
Show You Relate
Teens can often think that adults are unable to relate to them. Even though you’ve been a teenager before, your teen might think that you’ve grown past any sort of insecurity or angst. To build a rapport, you need to be willing to be vulnerable. Explain how these issues are familiar to adults as well. Watch your phrasing and tone to make sure it doesn’t come across as you trying to downplay the seriousness of your teen’s issues.
Developing a rapport with anyone takes time. Even though you and your teen have a pre-existing relationship, it can still always be deepened. They’re on the verge of adulthood, and they need you to respect them as such. Though they might not realize or be embarrassed to say how much your support matters, you know it does. The stronger your rapport is with your teen, the more strength you can give them.
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