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Connecting with Youth

Friends and activities in kids and teens’ life become more important the older they get. However staying connected with your kids and teens is very important for their growth and development, and for families as a whole, especially since family stability and security can help kids and teens work through challenges.

What can you expect?

As kids develop into teens, it is normal for them to want to develop their own independence and make more of their own decisions. Though kids at this age may feel that your input isn’t needed, they do in fact still need you to check on them, to set appropriate limits and to care about their well-being.

Don’t take it personally when your teens want to be more independent. They may not want to spend as much time with you, and you may find that their bedroom door is shut a lot. It is important that you allow some freedoms as they are a normal part of teen development. However, too much independence too early can be difficult for your teens to handle.

Also note that kids and teens will value your examples a lot more than your instructions or advice during this time. If you model qualities you’d like to see in your kids – respectful communication, fairness, and keeping commitments, it is more likely that you will see these traits emerge from them in time.

What can you do?

There are some fairly simple things you can do to keep communication open and fair during the teen years of increasing independence.

  • Schedule Family Meal Times
    Although family members often work multiple jobs and it can be hard to set standard meal times, sharing a meal as a family whenever possible provides you with valuable communication time. Sitting down together without distractions (no screens at the table) opens the door to simple and basic family communication.
  • Stay Involved
    Try to stay involved in your kid’s activities as they grow. Many clubs and sports want parent volunteers to help with activities and transportation. Chaperoning a dance or team travel to a tournament are some ways to stay involved, and also lets your kids know their lives and activities are important to you. Even though kids may give signals that they don’t want your involvement in their lives, they really do benefit when their families care about and support them.
  • Good communication
    The basic skills of good listening are showing warmth, being non-judgemental and being available. Practicing these things while interacting with your children will help to keep family communication open. Avoid criticizing your kids or teens and instead, ask them if they were happy with the outcome of a poor decision or action. Asking gives them the opportunity to think about how they could have responded differently, and you can work together to brainstorm some ideas for next time.
  • Be Supportive
    Showing affection appropriately is an important part of a healthy family relationship. Appropriate affection may mean less big hugs and fewer kisses as kids become teens, but affection can be shown in other ways as well that are no less meaningful. In whichever way you choose, always show your kids that you are there for them.
  • Create special times
    Many kids love family traditions, and can be willing to get into traditions more than you might think. Things like creating a ritual out of picking the family Christmas tree every year, or baking birthday cakes together can create lasting memories and special moments for the whole family.
  • Check out other resources
    Go to the Links and Resources section of this site for more information on evidenced-based sites.

Do you need help?

All families have disagreements and conflicts, and sometimes things do not get resolved easily. There are times when families may want to take a step back and consider how they are coping with disagreements and struggles, and perhaps try some new ways to get through discussions.

Check out “Resolving Differences” in this section for more ideas on keeping things cool when times get tough.