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Making the Connection with Teens

Tips to Get You Started

Communicating with the kiddos gets more challenging as they get older. Here are some suggestions to improve your relationship with your teenager. As a natural result of following these suggestions, you will discover even more meaningful ways to maintain and deepen the connection with your teen.

1. Compliment your teen on a regular basis. I have often asked parents to give their teens just one compliment each day for one month and then to record any differences in their relationship with their teens. Without exception, these "compliment prescriptions" have always resulted in an improved relationship at the end of the month. The compliments should not be forced (fake) and do not have to be on a grand scale. Comments like these will work just fine: "Your hair looks great that way. You were really kind to your brother when he lost his Little League game. I like how you rearranged your room; it really reflects your personality. Your toast to Grandma on her birthday was something special. Would you write it down for me? I'd like to keep it in my memory box."

2. Don't treat your teen's broken heart in a dismissive or pragmatic manner, like it's no big deal: "There are plenty of fish in the sea. He didn't deserve you anyway. What can you know about being in love at 15?" Remember, when you were a teen how you felt when you got dumped by your first love? Give your teen empathy, understanding, and a soft place to fall!

3. Surprise your teen with a scrapbook of pictures that you've taken of her, from baby to her present age. If you have them, include a few pictures of you and her together.

4. Ask your teen if you could share a regular "date" with him every couple of weeks (or every week if he's game), where the two of you go out for an early Saturday lunch or to see a movie. What's most important is your expressing a desire to do something with him.

5. Involve your teen in some family decisions: what color to paint the house, which car to purchase, what vegetables and flowers to grow, what fish to put in your aquarium, which vacation spots to visit, and what new holiday traditions to create.

6. Establish a family volunteer tradition, where you both volunteer together at least once a month at places like a food cupboard, hospice, family shelter, children's hospital, or nursing home.

7. If a family member has Alzheimer's or another degenerative disease, encourage your teen to spend time with her. Although they may be scared and hesitant to visit, teens do not want to be shut out from seeing family members whom they have loved all their lives. Give them realistic expectations of what to expect (e.g., memory loss) and accompany them if you sense they need your presence.

8. If your teen has a paying job, offer to match whatever portion of her paycheck she wishes to contribute to a charity of her choice.

9. Write your teen occasional notes of appreciation, gratitude, and love, and leave them in sealed envelopes on his pillow.

10. Use a picture of your teen or one of you and your teen as your computer's screensaver. Consider what that might signify to her. Every time you or she uses your computer, there she is. It's another version of keeping a picture of her in your wallet, but with much more visible impact.

Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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