Being a teenager is hard, and some might argue that being a parent of a teenager is even harder. While teenagers are adjusting to bodily changes, increasingly complicated social climates, and weathering the long transition from childhood to adulthood, parents are adjusting to unprecedented attitudes, increasingly complicated kids, and weathering the long transitions from cradling babies to allowing their kids to have a little more freedom.
When your child was a newborn, family bonding was no more than a question of snuggling with your baby, but finding ways to bond with your teenager requires a bit more finesse. It is important to remember that they are transitioning from being a child to being an adult, and they crave validation.
Though raising happy kids, especially adolescents, can be confusing at times, you can help and bond by providing the validation they seek as you help them become adults. Here are three ways to bond with your teen.
Give Them a Little Credit … Sort Of
They might learn History and English at school, but your teen isn’t likely to take a class that prepares them for the real world. Because knowing George Washington’s birthday or Alexander Hamilton’s original system for a national bank won’t help them pay their taxes or how to manage a credit card, you can teach them practical finance lessons.
Credit cards can be a simple place to start. Remember to start from the very beginning. To them, a credit card might just be the magical rectangular plastic that you hand to the checkout lady before you can leave the store, so teach them about starting a checkings account with a bank, the difference between a debit card and credit card, and different instances of when you should use a credit card.
Once you’ve taught them the basics, you can take them to the bank and have them open their own account. Though you might want to hold off on giving your teenager a credit card, you can start instilling fiscal responsibility in them by helping them set savings goals, including taking them to go shopping for something special when they have reached a certain amount in their savings account.
Vehicle Maintenance as an Opportunity
Maybe you remember the first time your dad taught you how to change a tire or check your oil. While this may be a little outdated in the sense that passing on mechanical know-how is not necessarily a dad’s job, one of the benefits of teaching your teenager how to maintain a vehicle is that it makes for a great way to bond.
If you know a lot about cars, it can be fun to pass down your wealth of knowledge to your offspring, but even if you know about as much about cars as your kid does, you can learn how to fix a problem yourself. There are many tutorials and step-by-step instructions on how to do things like: repair noisy brakes, take out a dent in your car using a hair dryer, or knowing when something is wrong with the car.
Not only will you teach the importance of caring for a vehicle (an important skill, whether you are preparing your teen for their first driver’s license or there are a few years left before they will have one), but you will also teach them the value of quality work done yourself and of learning a new skill.
More Than Just Helpful Habits
School can be hard for your teenager — not only in the sense that the social nature among their peers is changing, but also because of the crazy amount of homework they are expected to do. It can be easy to focus too much on your child’s GPA, but remember that they are in school for about as long as you are at work, and they have to take their work home with them.
Hopefully, if you work, you do not have to take your work home and you can show your teenager how to develop a healthy work-life balance. The first important part of this is teaching them how to manage their responsibilities in different aspects of their life. The second part is showing them positive ways they can relax after school.
Children start developing habits at a young age, but adolescence is when teens can start mindfully developing habits that may accompany them through life. You can help them develop the habit of completing responsibilities before engaging in leisure, which will also pay off when they live on their own and are responsible for cleaning up after themselves (especially with the potential added pressure of roommates).
Developing time management skills may not exactly get your teen excited, but you can hook them with showing them positive ways to unwind. You can show them the best ways you manage stress or have them explore different hobbies or extracurricular activities that interest them.
You can also show them how to relax without turning to screens, such as going on a hike, spending time outside, calling grandparents, or volunteering if you have the time.
Set the example yourself and implement some of these into your life. You and your teen can try new activities together. Have them choose what sounds fun to them, and don’t put too much pressure to enjoy them. If you both end up hating the chosen activity, you can laugh about it together and bond that way.
Don’t Forget …
Try to take an interest in what your teenager in interested in. Ask them about their hobbies, their friends, and their general interests. Remember to keep an open mind. Your kids may have different interests that you, and that’s OK. If they don’t want to talk, show them you respect them by not pressing them (unless you are worried about them).
Respecting their privacy when appropriate can help them feel like they are being treated like an adult. Though their teen years can be scary for you, don’t dread them, but bond in respect.