3 Tips For Connecting With Your Teen

The other day, a friend of mine told me she was ’jealous of me.’ She commented that teens tend to gravitate towards me because of a certain skill I have – a skill that they themselves enjoy practicing, too.

That oh-so-coveted skill? Putting on make-up.

In the past, I would have felt bad, or even guilty, after a comment like that. I would have seen myself as somehow being in the wrong. 

“Teenagers like me? What’s wrong with me?! Am I trying to be too young?”

“Those are other people’s kids; I shouldn’t step outside my bounds with their kids. What if they get mad at me?” 

I was surprised when she followed that statement up by asking if I could teach her how to apply makeup.  (Which is actually kind of hilarious, because I truthfully know nothing about makeup and only wear it when necessary.)

I started wondering what it was about this situation that was different, or unique. What could I learn from it? Heaven knows, I’ve screwed up as a parent my fair share of times, so what was the real request underneath what she was saying?

And that’s when I understood what she was really trying to say – and what she was really asking for.

She wanted a connection like that with her own teen.

A connection. 

It all comes down to connection.

And here’s how I work to create those connections:

1.  When I’m around kids, I try to comment only one time for every 20 comments my brain (or mouth) wants to say.  So instead of feeding my ego by talking, I actively listen and only speak when I sense it’s just the right time and place in the conversation. And that one comment usually comes in the form of a question. 

2.  Second (or maybe this is really first?), I am aware of my own agenda.  Do I want to be around them for my own personal gain, maybe because I am bored or lonely or need a friend?  Or am I honoring my family’s value of connected parenting, or the love language of service, or another value I cherish? 

3.  Third, when I am spending time with teens doing make-up, I connect with them and am just present in the moment with them.  I don’t mean that like we’re meditating or anything.  I just mean, I look them in the eye, or smile, or just tune into whatever they might be feeling. A lot of times we don’t even talk. 

It might not be make-up for you, but I’m pretty sure there’s something you like to do that your teen wants or needs.  It might be reading together, washing cars, painting nails or cooking a meal.  Build on this, one baby step at a time, and you’ll see that connection grow stronger and stronger.

Challenge: Jot down a list of 3 things that you enjoy and that might serve your teen.  Next time they are in a quiet space, mention your desire to connect and ask if you might be of service.  Or, better yet, allow it to arise naturally next time you are in the situation.