As parents, it can be challenging to connect with our anxious teens. They may shut down, withdraw, or struggle to communicate effectively. However, building a strong connection with our teens is crucial in helping them navigate their anxiety.
In this article, we will explore five ways to better connect with your teen. By implementing these strategies, you can strengthen your relationship, create deeper connections, and ultimately provide them with the support they need.
"During adolescence, teenagers need to extend away from their parents, all the while staying connected to them. Their job is to extend. Your job is to connect" M. Riera
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How To Connect With Your Teen
1. Picking the Right Time and Environment
Choosing the right time and environment for conversations with your teen is essential. Avoid formal discussions or interrogations, as these can make your teen feel pressured and cause them to shut down. Instead, find casual and spontaneous moments to engage in conversation. For example, while watching TV together or during a car ride or walk.
By capitalizing on relaxed and comfortable moments, your teen will be more likely to open up and share their thoughts and feelings.
Additionally, ask your teen when would be a good time for a conversation if you need to discuss a specific issue. By allowing them to choose a suitable time, they will feel more in control and willing to engage in the conversation.
And, be prepared to drop everything when your teen wants to talk. These moments as they grow older are precious and rare, so by making yourself readily available (no matter the inconvenience), you show your teen that their thoughts and feelings matter to you.
2. Listening to Understand
When engaging in conversations with your teen, approach them with the intention of understanding, rather than trying to change or control a situation. Avoid interrupting and ask for their opinion and suggestions. By showing that you have faith in their abilities and judgments, you can help them develop confidence and trust in themselves.
It is crucial to avoid lecturing or devaluing their opinions, even if you disagree with them. Instead, stay neutral and let them know that you respect their perspective.
Furthermore, be honest with your teen. Straight talk is more effective than sugarcoating or dodging answers.
By granting them maturity and treating them as equals, they will feel respected and valued.
3. Changing the Lens Through Which You See Your Teen
If the anxiety has been present for a while, it may be necessary to change the lens through which you see your teen. Often, we label our teens based on their behaviour, and we can start to view them as disrespectful, awkward, stubborn, lazy, or permanently shy for example. However, these labels can limit their potential, hinder their growth & seriously damage your connection with them. Instead, tune into who you know your teen to be deep down, beyond their surface behavior.
By focusing on their strengths and potential, you can help them develop a sense of belonging and validation.
4. Being Aware of Your Triggers
When confronted with big emotions, hurtful words, or 'unreasonable' behaviour it is easy to become reactive as a parent. But by being able to better control your own emotions, you can better control the situation.
Identify what may trigger a reaction and work on clearing those emotions before engaging with your teen. By being aware of your triggers beforehand, you can respond to your teen in a more calm and understanding manner in the moment.
If their behaviour reminds you of a past relationship for example, knowing this in advance better prepares you and allows you to separate your own previous experiences from their actions. By doing so, you can approach your teen with a clear and unbiased perspective.
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5. Not Taking it Personally
When your teen is in a bad mood or says hurtful things, it is crucial not to take it personally. Most often, despite how it appears, their behaviour is not a reflection of you but a result of their own struggles and emotions. Avoid reacting with anger or defensiveness, as it can escalate the situation. Instead, remind yourself that their words and actions are not personal attacks. Understand that they are still navigating their emotions and learning how to express themselves effectively.
Furthermore, continue to show your love and support, even if your teen doesn’t reciprocate it. Love your teen out loud and make time for activities together when you can. By engaging in shared experiences, such as exercising, eating, or watching movies together, you create opportunities for connection.
Remember that your teen’s independence is a natural part of their development, and they may need space at times. Be patient and consistent in your love and support, even if they don’t always show appreciation.
Connecting with an anxious teen can be challenging, but by implementing these strategies, you can boost that bond and provide the help & support your teen needs - whilst avoiding some conflict along the way!
Building deeper connections takes time and patience, but the rewards are invaluable.
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**Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment
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