Teens Want Connection
I don’t know why we have such short memories. We look at our teens and shake OUR heads, wondering what on earth is going on in THEIRS! We don’t understand their moodiness and their preference for friends’ company and opinions over ours. We can’t believe their lethargy or the way they challenge our family values and house rules. Do we not remember going through those very same torturous times as a teen? I do! It was a time of ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where do I fit?’ ‘Am I cool?’ Do people like me?’
Obviously hormones have a great influence on teens’ moodiness once they reach puberty, but the key thing for teens is acceptance; acceptance by their peers and by those in authority over them.
Teens are like sponges. While they are trying to work out who they are they rely mostly on what they think others think of them. (The truth is, what people think of us is often a figment of our own imagination because many times they are so pre-occupied with the same thought, they aren’t creating an opinion of us at all!)
In pre-teen years parents have a lot of input into their kids’ thinking and decision-making. As they get older, kids begin having opinions and making their own choices. This can be a scary time as they wean themselves slowly but surely away from parental supervision. Teens desperately want to feel valued by their parents. They want to know their opinions are valid. They want to be able to talk freely about the many questions rolling around in their heads.
Teens want to be connected with parents. However, successful communication with teens is a tricky thing. They need to feel safe in disclosing their innermost thoughts. They don’t necessarily want our opinion or a judgment call. They often just want to say things out loud and have a sounding board to bounce off ideas. If they don’t have that healthy connection with you they will turn to whoever will listen to them and often those ears belong to kids of their own age who are equally puzzled by life.
So, how do we successfully foster teen connection?
a) Teens want our time. We need to specifically give them one-on-one time, face time, so they feel free to talk about whatever is on their minds. b) They want us to listen. They want eyeball connection. They want our full attention. It is very difficult to have a leisurely conversation with someone who is hopping from one foot to the other and not making eye contact. c) They want guidance, not judgment. e) They want to be able to trust us; to know these conversations will remain personal and confidential unless they give permission to talk about it to others. d) They want to know their thoughts and opinions are worth as much as anyone else’s ideas.
Connection begins from birth. As our kids are able to converse back and forth, we need to encourage them by telling them their thoughts and ideas are valuable. They need to hear us say, “Wow, Johnny, that is a great idea! Let’s do it!” Connection is strengthened by acceptance and respect between people, be they child or adult. It is healthy for kids, especially teens to have connection with positive adult role models or heroes in their lives. Let’s ensure we create that kind of connection with our kids.
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