- Determine what their common interests are and try to engage with them in that e.g. video games, computers, sports, dance, music, etc. Make time to go to their games or recitals. Come into their world because they are the child/teenager and you are the adult.
- Try and set up a family day/night even if you start out with as little as 30minutes to a couple of hours where the whole family gets together at least once per week to do something together e.g. dinner at the kitchen table and movie afterwards, board games, picnic at the beach or park, interactive museums such as science museums, movie at the theatre and then discuss afterwards, swimming in a pool together, cooking meals together etc.
- Family vacations are also good ways for families to connect and bond with each other. They do not have to be extravagant. Even if you go down to San Diego and spend a couple of nights to bond and spend time developing great memories.
- Talk with them when you pick them up from school or take them to an event or appointment even if you only have 10mins in the car. Try to listen more than lecture. If teens feel comfortable they will open up and share what is on their minds even if it comes in small increments. Be delicate with the advice you give. Phrase it in a non-judgmental fashion, even if it needs to later have a more serious discussion.
- If a child or teen looks like he/she is getting angry ask them if they would like to take 10 minutes to cool off and then you can finish your conversation. If you also need 10 minutes to finish your conversation say that and then reconvene. Don’t leave the situation undealt with.
- Communicate your needs without yelling, cursing, or being disrespectful towards the teen. Model what it means to be respectful and eventually they may learn to give this back to you. Of course, redirect any disrespectful language they use towards you as well but don’t get into a power struggle. If they need a consequence it only needs to be said one time and for what reason.
By Karma Brownlee Limon