What can parents do to keep connection with their teens?
Kim Allen, M.A., M.F.T., former associate state specialist, former director, Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting (CASPP), Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri Extension
Adolescence is a time filled with many changes for a family. A typical teen deals with issues of identity formation by spending much of his or her time moving away from mom and dad, emotionally and physically. It is also during adolescence that teenagers begin to make important life choices.
shows that the best choices are made when parents are able
to create an environment that allows freedom for decision
making while keeping a close connection with the adolescent.
When parents are unavailable or the family has little sense
of cohesion, it is often friends or the media that help
teens make their choices. Although it is developmentally
appropriate for teens to spend more time with their friends,
they still need their parents’ guidance when making major
The good news is that teenagers want to be connected
with their parents, especially in times of need. There
are several steps a parent can take to stay connected with
Spend fun time together. Even though adolescence
is a busy time, it is important that the family finds time
to just hang out. Spending a Saturday afternoon watching
movies or doing an organized activity are examples of activities
that help keep the bond between kids and parents strong.
Listen. Teenagers want the adults in their life
to hear what they are saying. Engage in a topic of interest
to the teen, and ask specific questions to let them know
you are listening.
Include friends. Teens really love spending time
with their friends, and the more a parent knows about the
friends the better. It is also good to know the friends’
Talk about expectations. Although they would never
let the parent know it, teens regularly report that they
want to please their parents. Kids whose parents talk about
their values and expectations make much better life choices.
Help them find their goal. Research also shows
that teens with a goal for the future, such as going to
college or having a career, make safer choices. Talking
with teenagers about their goals and helping them form a
plan for success is a great way for parents to keep connected
and to help guide their teen down the right path.
Eat dinner together regularly. Research shows
that kids make better choices when they have a regular family
meal. Find as many times as possible to eat together as
Encourage their individuality. It is difficult
for some parents to let go of control with their teens.
However, adolescents with the freedom to find their own
individuality transition into adulthood more smoothly.
Offer open communication. Teens will continue to talk with their parents about a variety of issues when they can discuss feelings openly.
Last Updated 11/26/2012