It’s Never Too Late to Build a Better Relationship With Your Teen
While I don’t think I’ve done anything special, I sometimes have people turn to me and ask “How did you do it?” They want to know why my kids talk to me and theirs don’t. Why I get spontaneous texts and calls while they barely get responses even when they are the ones to initiate contact. This is often followed by the lament, “It’s too late.”
I believe it’s never too late. Relationships can be strained, but it is possible to make them better.
I have no magic formula, no hidden tricks. But there are a few things I’ve noticed that some of my friends and I do that is not universal among parents.
We listen. We pay attention to what they are interested in and ask questions. (Of course it helps that I am by nature a curious person who is genuinely interested in learning more about their passions.)
We give opinions. (I try to do this only when asked for it, but TBH sometimes I can’t help myself and offer it when it’s not wanted.) But here’s the important part, it is ONLY an opinion, it’s not a directive. My kids know that my love and approval is not conditional on their sharing my opinions.
We apologize when we mess up. While I try not to dilute my apology by explaining my whys, I sometimes mess up even more by doing so (and then have to apologize again).
We approach them. We invite them to do things with us. We reach out for hugs (especially when they really don’t deserve them).
We show up. We show up at their games/recitals/plays and cheer them on (and smile when they hear us and roll their eyes). When possible, we drop everything to help them solve problems. When it’s not possible (or it’s something they really need to tackle alone), we say we wish we could and explain why we can’t.
We cheer them on. When they get discouraged we say “Yes you can!”
We ask “What do you need?” This may be advice or a safe place to vent.
We treat them with respect. Yes they are our children, but they are also individuals who are learning their way in the world. Though they may look and sound like adults, they only THINK they have all the answers. Having gone through this stage, we know they don’t (and let’s be honest we don’t either), but it’s just unkind to belittle them when they make mistakes.
We try to remember what it was like, and then consider how different the world is today. We try to manage our expectations: there are things they can do and things they can’t –yet.
We realize that nobody’s perfect and give them, and ourselves, lots of grace.
It’s never too late to make a relationship better.