Last year your daughter was so sweet, suddenly she has an “attitude.”
Two months ago your son was your best bud, now he treats you like you’re totally “uncool.”
Welcome to the world of parenting a teen. Throw out any of those child-rearing manuals you’ve used in the past. For these ages you need a whole new perspective. Mark Twain offered one of most ingenious solutions: “Put them in a barrel,” he said, then and nail it shut until they turn nineteen. Only then should you let them out.”
Here are a few more realistic (and legal) tips I shared on the TODAY show that might help you save your sanity and stay connected with your teen. The trick is to find the one solution that works best for you and your teen and then keep on using it until it becomes the common bridge that helps you stay connected.
Count to three (at least) before you talk to a teen (and even then .. do so carefully!)
Stay calm. Take a lot of deep slow breaths.
Slow your pace and honor the silence. (Teens actually need more processing time!)
Lower your voice, don’t raise it.
Clarify emotions: “Are you thinking I’m mad because I’m not.” (New research show that teens have trouble with emotional identification and may misinterpret our fatigue with anger. So let your child know how you really feel.
Bite your tongue! Nothing turns a teen (or anyone else for that matter) off faster than judgmental comments and criticism.
Take a time out: “I need a moment to get it together.”
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Talk about your teen’s interests. Try tailoring your conversation around your teen’s interests: her CD collection, his baseball cards. It might be a great entrée to what’s really going on in her life. If you really consider yourself “not with it” then peruse a current teen magazine (Seventeen, Teen People, CosmoGirl) and casually bring up “So what do you think about that (name his favorite band) concert?”
Use technology! Have your teen teach you how to text and then send text messages to each other. Ask your teen to show you how to load your ipod. The secret is to get into your teen’s world!
Go to your teen’s zone. If you want some one-on-one talking time with your kid, then go to a place your teen enjoys: a mall, the batting cage, the golf range, Starbucks. Chances are she will be more relaxed because she’s in her territory and just might be more likely to open up.
Find any common connector. (And I mean any healthy connector!) If she likes yoga, do it together. If he likes football, watch the game together. If she loves to read, start a book club with her friends and their moms. If he loves CSI, be ready with the popcorn once a week and let him think you love it, too.
Hold an evening “meet and greet.” Don’t let your teen’s activity schedule stand in the way of connecting. Find a time such at 9:30 pm when the family stops and meets in the kitchen for five minutes to reconnect. Ask about their schedule and any needs. Find out how their day went. Give a snack and a back rub.
Above all: DON’T GIVE UP!!! If you need to communicate via a white board or post-its, do it! Keep showing up and letting your teen know you’re there for him. Remember, in just a few years that teen will be gone and you’ll wonder where the time went. (Really! I promise!!!)
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