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Staying Connected with Your Teen

Are you staying connected with your teen? It is easier than you think. Staying connected with your teen means you can’t be their friend, but you can be there. Staying connected with your teen means being consistent in your decision making, holding them accountable and leading by example.

The older I get, the more I value relationships.

At 63 most of the relationships in my life have faded away or broke off for any number of reasons. I’m a pretty social guy and this has caused me to think about staying connected with the people I love or have loved. Isn’t it ironic that in this age of social media and 500+ Facebook friends, people are feeling so isolated and disconnected.

It doesn’t help that I don’t get out as much these days, so there are fewer opportunities to meet people. The people I do meet whom I am interested in getting to know better don’t get out much either. Therefore we experience fewer and fewer deep meaningful relationships over time.

It was so easy when I was young.

When I was young, I had tons of friends. How many friends does your teen have? Too many to count? If your teen has lots of friends, that’s a great sign that they are developing normally. Having friends also helps to develop social skills, limit and boundary setting and negotiating skills. Teenagers are wired for these activities. You are not. You are wired to so sit down and rest your weary bones.

Are you concerned about staying connected with your teen? You may rarely see your teen. They are busy with school, friends and activities. You are busy with your stuff. Where does the time go? You may seem like total strangers and a million miles apart. Pay attention to this message. The ever increasing distance that grows for all parents and their teens is not a permanent rift and it is not an abysmal abyss that you will never cross again. Your teen is not leaving your life, but they are adventuring into their life.

In one form or another, be present in your teen’s life.

Technology really helps in this case. You can call, email or text you teen anytime you want. That doesn’t mean they will respond. Ohhh…..noooooo. That is just toooooooo inconvenient. Besides, they are busy. Nevertheless the silence on the other end IS telling you something. It is speaking volumes about your teen’s priorities. If your teen is Non-Responsive to your electronic attempts to connect and communicate then it is time for some Face Time. No, some real face time. One-on-One, Mano-a-Mano.

Yes, your teen is becoming more autonomous, more independent and more hungry every day. They are busy little creatures. There is no denying that. But communication is too important to let slide for long. Every relationship is a delicate balance of give and take and when the ratio of give-to-take is around 50/50, then the relationship thrives and meets the needs of both parties. But, when that ratio begins to slide in either direction then the delicate balance of the relationship is disrupted. Strong feelings emerge and communications fails frequently.

Everyone needs 3 hugs every day; at least.

Hug therapy. That’s right, get your 3 hugs every day. This is a minimum standard. The more hugs, the better. Yes this is a very low tech way of communication, but what a great communication tool hugs are. Hugs communicate at a deeper, more spiritual level. Hugs connect people. Hugs are extremely important to our emotional and mental health and hugs help us to feel connected with another.

I wanted to make this point because before you say anything to your teen about their lousy #@$%&*! communication, go to where they are taking up space and hug them. Bring them into your arms and hold them close. It doesn’t matter if they hug you back, just hold them and breath your love into their hearts. Linger in this embrace for at least twice as long as your comfort level wants to allow.

Then look your teen into your teen’s eyes and lovingly say,

I need you to communicate better with me. I don’t like the feeling of drifting apart from you and watching you disappear into your world. Even though I know this is true, I still want to feel connected with you.

So, when I send you a text , or call or email you, don’t just blow me off. If you can’t respond in a timely way, I understand, but please respond. You know how I worry. 

I highly recommend stopping at this point. Give your teen another great big hug, tell them you love them and leave. I call this the “The Hit and Run” and it is especially effective when you want to make an important point with your teen, but you don’t want a lot of push back.

You are not out of the woods yet.

You need to support and reinforce the new effort that your teen will be making. Yes, they WILL make an effort because they value staying connected with you too . Unfortunately, they are not very good at communicating. You teach them a valuable life skill when you hold your teen accountable for communicating well with others.

Follow these 3 simple steps and watch your teen’s communication skills blossom.

  1. Use your imagination to visualize your teen receiving a message from you. It is semi-urgent but warrants a response relatively soon. See them in you mind, receiving the message. See them tell the people they are with that they need to excuse themselves to reply to your message. Feel their excitement to get back to you as soon as possible. Now send them a message.
  2. When your teen does reply. Thank them for their timely response and how much you appreciate it. Give them a hug simultaneously whenever possible. (You may want to hold off on the hug when their friends are nearby.)
  3. Repeat Steps 1 & 2 once or twice every day.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated.

Simple acknowledgements work wonders in all relationships. Every one want to feel appreciated by others. Everyone loves it when they are acknowledged and appreciated. Let the people you love know how much you appreciate them. Humans spend way too much time focused on what they don’t want. I say pay attention to what you DO WANT and spend your day being grateful for all of the abundance in your life.

Acknowledge and appreciate those you love 3 times every day. If this is seem impossible or impractical at the time then double your efforts to the goal of 3 times daily with everyone in your family. We get what we pay attention to and you get what you expect. So expect the best from your teen and you will get it.

 

 

About Ray

I was raised in a small town in Michigan. I was the middle child of 3 boys in a moderately dysfunctional family. I was fortunate to fall into the Hero role hat afforded me the very best that my family could provide. As a hero child, I was the first to go to college. College opened my eyes and my mind. College also turned out to be the bane of my family. To make along story short, at 38 years old and a new social worker, I learned of the dark secrets my family held. The more I reached out to help the family, the more the pushed me away until, I could not longer have contact with any family members. It's been nearly 30 years now. It's just better that way. As a result, I've focused my career on helping families, especially families with teenagers. I've always worked with teens, since I was 19 years-old I've worked with teens as a teacher, counselor, social worker and psychotherapist. I am still passionate about working with teens and their families, but am focused on working with large groups with multiple families in attendance. Part of my desire to accomplish on this website is to create a place for discussion of families, adolescents, their ever present angst. I want to share with parents of teens some of what the wisdom I've gained from 30 years of working with teenagers and their families. Please visit for awhile. Read some articles, make some comments or share a post with your friends or colleagues. I'm at your service.

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