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.
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.