7 ways to connect with your teen while respecting their privacy

Parenting teenagers can be hard work, but it’s also when you can become their friend as well as parent. Here’s how to make sure you grow together, not apart.

You are conscious of respecting their privacy, but at the same time worry that you and your teenage child are drifting apart. But there are some simple strategies that you can adopt that will enable you to keep in touch with your teen and maintain a close relationship through this tricky time.

1. Write them a note

It’s a great way to let them know you love them, and how proud they make you. Don’t text or use social media – younger teenage boys, in particular, will be mortified at being embarrassed in front of their peers, and your loving gesture could backfire! Remember, an angst-ridden teen may not appear especially grateful for your note at first, but understanding that your love for them is a constant they can rely on counts for a lot.

2. Make car journeys count

If you thought managing your young child’s behaviour was hard, it’s a walk in the park compared with managing a teen. Whether you’re just checking in or need to raise something important, chatting in a non-threatening (and contained) environment such as the car on your way to a sports club or friend’s house can work wonders. After all, it’s just an ‘incidental’ chat – but you may be amazed at what you find out.

3. Be curious – but respect their privacy

Show an interest in their lives – their best friends, their favourite films or bands – but also know when to cut the questions. Many teenagers are grappling with a combustible mix of heady emotions that include love, fear, anxiety and hope, and too much prodding of sensitive areas will not be welcomed. Watchful waiting is your best tactic here. Stay connected, but always give them space.

4. Be their second in command

Let your teen choose an activity to do together – this will empower your teenage son in particular, who may rail against what he sees as parental cosseting despite the fact he’s nearly a man! It might be taking your mountain bikes out or even putting together new furniture for his room. He plans the route or chooses the decor, and you follow his lead.

5. Show them respect

If you want to raise a teen who is respectful towards others, start by displaying that behaviour yourself. At its most basic, respect is showing consideration for other people’s rights and feelings – the right to talk and be listened to, for instance. So even if your blood is boiling at their latest outlandish suggestion, don’t just snap that it’s out of the question. Listen, respond and explain your thought process. Remember, you’re the grown-up, so set an example by acting like one.

6. Listen more than you talk

This can be hard when faced with a teenager who seems determined to have a conversation that hits every parental nerve going (school grades or curfews, for example). So much about good parenting means letting go of judgments about your teen, or making assumptions about their behaviour. Hear them out and when you do speak, do so calmly. Accept that you may need to compromise in the name of family harmony. It’s not giving in – it’s showing flexible thinking and trust in your teen that they’ll act responsibly with the extra freedoms they’ve been granted.

7. Give them a break

It’s hard being a teenager. The teenage years are a lot of fun, but can also be a highly anxious time, and your teen may sometimes feel low and need extra support. Going easy on them doesn’t mean you’ll turn out a disrespectful adult. Sometimes you just need to be on their side when it feels like the world is against them.

This article has been brought to you by Always, which reassures and empowers mums to bond and maintain the dialogue with their children.

We’d love to know what tips you have for building a good relationship with your teenager. Please share your insights in the comments section below.