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How Parents Can Take the Initiative to Connect with Teens

If there’s a breach in your relationship with your teen, “your kid is not going to take the initiative to re-connect,” says family therapist Neil Brown. “The total responsibility for that is on you.”

So what can you do when something happens to put stress on your relationship with your teen? Take the first steps to repair the relationship:

  • Apologize for your role in the conflict or miscommunication.
  • Don’t bring up past wrongs.
  • Encourage better communication and mutual respect.
  • Push reset and start fresh.

“When you’re not in the middle of a conflict, let them know: ‘I know that things haven’t gone perfectly between us, but I am available to you anytime to talk about anything that you need to talk about,’” says Dr. John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author of the new book Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety.

What Else Can Parents Do to Connect With Teens?

1. Listen

Let them talk and blow off steam without trying to solve their problems.

2. Empathize

Don’t judge but instead acknowledge their feelings. “It sounds like that was hurtful.”

3. Show concern first

“Before we talk about what happened and needs to happen now, we need to know how you are feeling. Are you okay?”

4. Follow their interests

Take them to a sports or music event, go shopping or hiking, check out a book or TV show they recommend.

5. Drive them

The car is a great place to talk, listen, and eavesdrop.

6. Create space

Set aside your basement, garage, or TV room so your teen and their friends will hang out at your house.

7. Engage as a family

Organize a weekly game night, a walk, or a family dinner. You could also volunteer together or take in a show or exhibit that might appeal to them.

8. Don’t yell

When parents lose control, teens don’t feel supported and safe.

9. Don’t be reactive, even if they’re rude

Say, “Ouch! Something I said must have gotten on your nerves. Let’s talk later.”

Mary Helen Berg is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, Scary Mommy, and many other publications.

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