We don’t know how it happens.
But somehow, our bouncy little boys or sweet little princesses grow up.
And grow away.
How do we go from being their whole wide world one minute, to barely being allowed in to it the next?
It’s a hard pill to swallow. But it is normal and natural; in fact, we want our kids to move away from us and create lives of their own. It is what they are supposed to do. (If you are still their whole wide world at age 17, then Houston, we have a problem…)
Still, we need to stay involved in their lives, not only for supervision and guidance, but also because we love our children, and want a (gulp!) adult relationship with them in a year or two.
So how do we step back in to their worlds, after being gone for so long?
It’s one small step for mom…..one giant leap for a better relationship!
One step at a time, that’s how.
Seven Steps You Can Take to Build a Better Relationship with Your Teenager Today
- Say Good Morning
Let’s face it, our mornings are hectic. Sometimes it is all we can do just to get out the door on time. But before you rush off, be sure to tell your son or daughter good morning. Take three seconds to let them know you see them, love them and hope they have a fantastic day! You most likely greet everyone else in a similar fashion during the norms of your day – be sure your child is at the top of that list. If you leave before he does, send him a good morning text when you know he is awake.
- Ask him what his day looks like today
If you have time, flash him a smile and ask him what’s on his plate for the day. Take whatever he gives you. If it’s not much, then simply tell him you hope he has a wonderful day. If he launches in to anything you are concerned about, make a mental note to address it later (unless it is a true emergency). Follow his lead – how much does he want to disclose, and is he looking for feedback from you? If not, keep your mouth shut and tell him you hope his day goes well! (If you talk too much, you may scare him off and he will shut down.)
- Give him a hug good-bye when you leave the house
Nearly everyone likes to be touched, teenagers included. If you have a comfortable relationship, make it a habit to hug good-bye every morning. Let’s face it – you don’t know what the day will bring – sometimes our loved ones never come back to us. Don’t miss the chance for a hug. If a hug feels too awkward, tousle his hair, pat his shoulder or back, or rub his arm as you walk by. Do this consistently enough and it will start to feel normal. Then gradually move towards more affectionate embraces.
- Text him during the day to say I love you
If you have a comfortable relationship with your son or daughter, then say “I love you” often, and text it often. If you do not have a comfortable relationship, start with texting, and simply say “I’m thinking about you”, or “How is your day?” or anything else that feels comfortable and loving. Don’t use words that ‘check up on’ your child, like “Where are you?” or “What are you doing?” or “Who are you with?” Your teenager will misread your intentions. Once you text regularly, you can toss out that dreaded four-letter-word beginning with L!
- Ask him how his day was
At the end of the day, ask him how his day was. Again, be choosey with your words – you don’t want to sound like you are prying or snooping. I always say “Did anything new and exciting happen today?” in a playful voice. It works well with my kids, who are used to a lot of questions from me. But it could be considered a bit intrusive by a sulky teenager, so know your child and what will work for him.
- Eat dinner together
I know it’s super hard, but try to eat dinner together as often as possible. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – even “cereal night” will work. The key is to sit around a table together (clear of any junk on it – we don’t want anything to distract you or your children) and eat. Put all electronics away as well. Try to hold a conversation, but if it is too foreign right now, just enjoy the silence together. Make eye contact once in a while. To take off some of the pressure, visit with your spouse or younger children. Just make a point to be together for the meal. After doing it consistently, it won’t feel so awkward and conversation will flow more naturally.
- Tell him good-night
At the end of the night, tell your teenager good-night. Teenagers naturally stay up later than us adults, so before you hit the hay, venture down, up or over to his room. Knock on the door, invite yourself in and say good-night. If you have a distant relationship, just leave it at that. If you have a more comfortable relationship, ask if there is anything that needs to be finished up in preparation for tomorrow or the rest of the week. Any games or projects coming up? Does your teenager work? And if you really feel comfortable, give your teen a hug, kiss, hair tousle, shoulder pat, etc., to say goodnight. Throw out that “L” word as well – your kids can never hear it enough.
Do these seven easy steps every day, and pretty soon you will have set up a small camp in a corner of your child’s world. And ever so slowly, you can venture out of it.
Making it Real…
If you have little to no relationship with your teenager, start slowly, with one or two of these steps. Our teens can be bears….we don’t want to scare them off with any sudden movements.
Complete the chosen step daily, until it is a regular habit, and then pick another to add to your daily routine, until you have incorporated all seven in to everyday life.
If you have a basic relationship with your teen, but don’t use all of these steps every day, add as many in as you feel comfortable, as soon as possible. Stay consistent and do them every day! You will see real results.
Is your teen shutting you out of his or her world? Let us know! We all go through it, sooner or later. What has worked or hasn’t worked? Leave a comment below!