After his parents’ divorce, a 17-year-old boy goes to live with his father. The father informs his son that he will treat the boy like an adult, which thrills the boy. But after school and football practice, the son often comes home to a quiet house. No warm dinner or conversation awaits him. His dad usually works or is out with friends. No tabs are kept on the son’s whereabouts. The boy stops going home after practice. He starts staying out late with friends which makes him too tired for football. He quits the team. Soon, he stops waking up for school. His absences rise while his grades plummet, and he drops out. His father honors his decision and signs the necessary papers.
A rare, self-motivated teenager may have put his nose to the grind and stuck with school, but most children require parental support and guidance. This father did his son a grave injustice.
If anything becomes clear after reading this illustration, it is that teenagers require structure and affection. Luckily, many parents try much harder than this father-turned-roommate to create such an environment. They do their best to be present, motivating, and emotionally available, however, many of these parents still feel distant from their teens. If you have already provided structure and support for your teen but would like to feel closer to him, the following tips can help make a good relationship even better.
…Or books, or sports. Whatever your teen likes, adopt it as one of your interests. Finding common ground provides a lot more opportunities for conversation and shows your teen that you care about his hobbies and, by extension, him.
Be at the crossroads
Teens lead busy lives and thrive on independence, but knowing you’re around adds to a teen’s sense of security. Try to make yourself present when your teen is coming and going from school, work and activities.
Being available also pertains to your child’s emotional and mental crossroads. A breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, college selection or job search are some examples. Show your teen that you care about his decisions. Show your support by being available and interested in his life.
Cheer, cheer, cheer
As best you can, make it to the band concerts, baseball games, etc. Be your teen’s most visible cheering section. They act like they don’t want you around, but think back to your own teen years. Sometimes your parents’ presence was embarrassing, but didn’t their applause make you feel valued?
Recognize and praise your kiddo when you catch him doing things right. An ‘A’ on a test, a clean bedroom or holding open a door are some little things that merit our recognition and approval. Instill confidence in your teen. If you don’t, who will?
Eat dinner together
Not only do family dinners promote healthier eating habits, but they also help parents be more involved in their teens’ lives. This article on WebMD shares 12 great benefits of eating dinner with your children:
• Everyone eats healthier meals.
• Kids are less likely to become overweight or obese.
• Kids are more likely to stay away from cigarettes.
• They’re less likely to drink alcohol.
• They won’t likely try marijuana.
• They’re less likely to use illicit drugs.
• Friends won’t likely abuse prescription drugs.
• School grades will be better.
• You and your kids will talk more.
• You’ll be more likely to hear about a serious problem.
• Kids will feel like you’re proud of them.
• There will be less stress and tension at home.
Sometimes we want to strangle our precious teenagers. Just remember, the teen years are tough. Our kids may not show it, but our teenagers need us and crave our attention.
(Megan Gladwell is an Indiana native and mother of four. She blogs at bookclub41.blogspot.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)