Hug 'em before you kill 'em: Bonding with your teen
Parenting kids is tough; parenting teens is tougher. As a parent, you love your children, but you might also want to strangle them sometimes and it's times like these that you need some tips to help bond with them.
When you first set eyes on your child, it seems the world just stops. You record every little thing they do, every milestone, every accomplishment. When they get older, you start noticing their independence and cheer them on —until they become a teenager, and then you look at the transformation from sweet child to Attila the Hun. Their moods are on a constant roller-coaster and you're thrown on it with them. Still, there are ways you can bond with your teen, even when they think you're living on a different planet and they know everything; here are five suggestions:
1. Do things they want to do
Bonding with your teen sometimes means doing things you really don't want to do, but it's a necessary evil. When I was a kid, I loved to play sports. I loved volleyball, basketball, and baseball. My mother hated sports, but she went to every game, even if it was just church games. Having her there, cheering me on, was comforting. After, she would take me to get ice cream. I really felt I bonded with her, even though I was a sassy teenager.
Maybe your girls love sports, such as skiing or hunting, or maybe even camping out under the stars. What better bonding experience than roughing it in the mountains. If you have a teenage son, take him shopping. I did this with my son. He was in need of new bedding, so we made a day of it, getting lunch and talking. Believe me, don't wait, because they will grow up and be gone before you know what hit you.
Keep trying, even when they shut you out. I know when my girls are bothered with something. Many times, I just let them know that I'm here if they need me, but I don't pressure them. A nice note, text message, or even a smile and hug will go much further in bonding with them than getting frustrated when they don't let you in.
3. Get to know their friends
This is a big one. When my daughter started junior high, I told her our home was open to her friends. They could come and play games, watch movies, go swimming (the city pool was across the street) or just hang out. To this day, my son's friends come to our house, because they know who I am and like that I can just talk with them.
4. Take an interest in their hobbies
My daughters love to sing, and my youngest loves to sing and act, so she's in choir and musical theater. I have tried diligently to attend their concerts. I've listened to audition tryouts and vocal rehearsals until I'm blue in the face, but attending and listening to them can really create a lasting bond. If your son's into sports, attend his practices and games; cheer him on and let him know you're there even if he loses.
It used to bug me to no end when my kids shut me out or stopped coming to me for advice. I was their mother, for crying out loud! Why don't they trust me anymore? I discovered, it's not you, it's them. Sometimes, teens just need their own space, to solve their own dilemmas. That may be hard to put into action, but teens need to know how to handle their own life when they leave your nest; ensure they have the confidence and ability to do so.
Bonding with your teen can happen. It takes a little bit of sleuthing, some patience, well maybe a lot of patience, and a good sense of humor. Someday, your kids will appreciate your efforts. It may not happen until their 30s, but it will happen.
Julia Nielsen is currently parenting three kids with pitfalls and pleasures. She co-authored two published books in "The Crystal Locket" series, and graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature in 2005. Check out her blog: http://jewelswrites.blogspot.com