As the parent of a teenager, you are not immune to feeling shut out of your child’s life. You may feel a heightened sense of anxiety as your teen brushes past you on the way in the door only to shut themselves in their room. Perhaps you feel hurt or concern over your teen’s refusal to answer questions, or their lack of attention when you try to learn more about where they are going or their daily activities.
In these instances, you are not alone. Many parents go through the same feelings and experiences. It is not uncommon for a teen to shut parents out of their life once they reach a certain age. Hormones and teen anxiety can cause your child to close off. Fortunately, there are teen bonding exercises you can do to help open up and even strengthen the relationship between you and your teen.
Bonding Mistakes to Avoid
Making attempts to bond with your teen means avoiding certain mistakes. For instance, you don’t want to appear like you are hovering. You also don’t want to appear forceful in your attempts. In fact, there are a list of mistakes you should try to avoid, ensuring that your bonding experience is successful.
You can avoid mistakes by doing the following:
- Pick and Choose Your Battles: The biggest mistake parents make is making a judgment call or a big deal out of every mistake or wrongdoing their child commits. In these instances, your child is likely to rebel. If you do not pick and choose your battles wisely, your parenting experience will be quite stressful. Focus on bonding rather than battling your child every step of the way. Those weird clothes, funky hairstyles, and seemingly poor taste in music are your child’s form of self-expression. It is wise to let those things go. In fact, you should try to form teen bonding experiences over those differences rather than fight over them.
- Don’t Stress the Grades: Of course, it makes sense to want your child to do well academically. In fact, it is something you should encourage and support, but don’t lose your head over a bad grade every now and then. Studies show that children who do not do as well in high school are not necessarily headed for inevitable doom when it comes to their overall success in life. Instead of getting upset over grades, find a way to bond by helping with homework.
- Do Not Shelter Your Child: Children are more likely to be open to a bonding experience if they do not feel as though they are smothered and sheltered. Instead, children need to feel a sense of independence. Stop washing your child’s laundry, cleaning up their room, and catering to their every whim. Instead, allow your teen to gain a sense of independency by giving them the opportunity to do these things on their own. Granted, they may shirt the responsibilities, but it is best to keep calm when that happens.
There are, of course, other mistakes to avoid, but those listed above are among the most important. By avoiding those mistakes, you can avoid creating friction between you and your teen.
Bonding Exercises to Try
Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, what about figuring out what bonding exercises will work? Fortunately, it is much easier to bond with your teenager than you might believe. When your teen seems wrapped up in friends, social media, and image rather than family, bonding can seem impossible, but it isn’t.
Some teen bonding exercises to try include:
- Find Opportunities for Discussion: Do you notice your teen listening to any particular music that catches your interest? Perhaps there is a show that your teen watches that seems like something you could enjoy. Make sure you mention those things to your child. There is no harm in saying, “What is this show you’re into? It seems really interesting.” Your teen would love the opportunity to tell you about the things they enjoy. Do your best to make it about their interests rather than all about your interests.
- Pursue Similar Interests: Do you and your teen share any similar interests? For instance, maybe you have a teen daughter that really loves fashion and you happen to be a mom that loves shopping. You can combine your interests and have a fun outing that you use to shop for the latest and greatest fashion trends together.
- Spend Time Together: Make it a point to spend one-on-one time with your teenager. Whether you and your spouse do this together or you take turns, that one-on-one time is important. It is especially important to set aside time for your teenage child if you have younger children in the house. Teens need to feel as though they are still just as important to you as they were before. Go hang out together and drink coffee or go out to lunch and just enjoy the time spent together.
- Listen More and Talk Less: A teenager is more likely to pull away from you if they are always the target of a long discussion or lecture. If you are looking to bond with your child, your best bet is to open your ears and close your mouth every now and then. Let your child talk and be the one to dominate the conversation from time-to-time, within reason, of course. In doing so, you provide them with a sense of independency and importance. That doesn’t mean you must let your child be disrespectful, but in listening more and talking less, teen bonding is more successful.
Each of the bonding exercises above can help you find common ground with your teen. Remember that it is not always going to be easy. There are times when your teen will downright refuse to spend time with you or not talk to you. Make sure you are both persistent and consistent, though. Of course, you want to persist without seeming as though you are smothering.
Try to bring up conversations in a natural and neutral way. The goal is to make your teenager as comfortable as possible when hanging out and talking to you so you can form a stronger relationship. If you find that teen bonding exercises are problematic despite your best efforts, you may want to consider the help of a therapist. A therapist can help you and your teenager find ways to bond that is best for the both of you.
Monica Ramunda is a solution-focused therapist with an office located in Louisville, Colorado for in-office visits. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 16 years experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).