Strengthening family relationships with your teen

As kids’ transition into their teenage years, it’s common for them to pull away from their families in order to seek more independence.

However, there are a range of extenuating factors and circumstances that can also contribute to the breakdown of family relationships. When this happens, it can cause considerable stress for you as a parent and oftentimes make your child feel alienated or alone.

Especially for children affected by family changes or other significant times of turmoil, it’s important that we actively seek to strengthen our family relationships and remind them that whatever they’re going through, you can get through it together.

What causes the breakdown of family relationships?

Some of the most common factors that can cause or worsen family tension include:

  • Separated parents / separated families
  • The introduction of stepparents or siblings
  • Distance in living situations
  • Arguments with friends and family
  • Large age gaps / differences in interests
  • Moving away from friends and family
  • Financial hardship
  • Drug, alcohol, gambling or technology addictions
  • Family and domestic violence

What can you do to help strengthen your relationship with your child?

Make time to talk

Some of the most common family issues come from children and young people feeling disconnected from their families. To help patch this divide, try to sit down with your kids and have a real conversation about the issues they’re facing and how it makes them feel.

When talking about these issues, it’s important not to shut down their point of view, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying. Let them know that you’re there for them by really listening and taking their feelings on board.

Invest in trust building

One of the foundational elements of a good relationship is having trust in one another. Even for families, trust cannot just be expected but must be worked at and earned.

To help develop trust between you and your kids, give them a platform to share things with you without judgment. Once they understand that they can trust you to help them, even when you might not be impressed with what they’re saying, you’ll likely find that they begin to open up with you about other things going on in their lives.

Schedule in family time 

As your kids cross over into teen territory, it’s pretty normal for them to start pulling away from you. Maybe they don’t think it’s cool to be hanging out with their parents, or just don’t take interest in the things you want to do together. Despite this, spending quality time together as a family is a really important part of maintaining strong relationships.

If you’re finding that your kids are no longer interested in participating in family activities they once enjoyed, try broadening your options to include their current interests.

Remember that the actual activity isn’t the important part here; what really matters is that you’re doing it together.

Allow time alone when needed

Especially when a traumatic event has caused your child to pull away, it’s important to give them time and space if they request it. That doesn’t mean allowing them to do whatever they want or ignoring them altogether, but if they’re not ready to talk to you about something, you should try to respect that.

Let them know that you’re going to step back and give them a break, but that you’re there to talk things through with them when they’re ready.

Show appreciation

Another element that plays a part in the breakdown of family relationships is lack of appreciation and respect.

To help demonstrate just how much you appreciate your child and everything they do, make mention of it when they do something positive. For instance, if they take the rubbish out or comfort a sibling when they’re upset, make a point of acknowledging this behaviour and how much you appreciate it when they help you out in this way.

Be willing to negotiate

As kids transition into young adults, they tend to actively seek independence. However, the things they want to do might not yet align with your expectations of them or the boundaries you’re trying to enforce as their parent.

When these kinds of arguments arise, think about ways you could negotiate with them so that you both get something out of it.

A flat-out no is likely to get push back, so think about ways in which you could negotiate with your child and meet them in the middle where it seems appropriate.

Try collaborative problem-solving

Throughout parenthood, you’ll undoubtedly resolve many issues with your kids. As they enter their teenage years, it can be really beneficial to try and solve these issues with them rather than for them.

In doing so, you’ll let them know that you respect their opinions and their ability to formulate a resolution while still helping to guide them in a direction you feel comfortable with.

When it comes to problem-solving, there’s always a range of potential solutions that could bring about the desired outcome. Working with your child, instead of against them, can be a great way to strengthen your relationship while retaining that balance between friendship and parenting.

See if the Junior Leader Program could work for your child

When family relationship issues boil down to a lack of respect for you or other authority figures in your child’s life, the Junior Leader Program may be an effective solution for you and your child.

Having taken hundreds of kids through our program, we’ve seen first-hand the difference in attitude and respect the Junior Leader Program can have on disrespectful or misbehaving kids and teens.

Click here to learn more about the Junior Leader Program and how it could work for your family.

You might also be interested in checking out our Parental Guidance Workshops where we talk collaboratively about issues we face as parents and how we can work to best deal with them.

Seek professional advice

While we all hope that we’re equipped to help our children in every way they need us, sometimes things can get a little out of our control. When this happens, it’s okay to seek out services for children and families like mediation, psychology and counselling.

Never feel ashamed of seeking family relationship advice, either. We’re not all born with the knowledge to fix every situation that arises and the fact that you’re concerned enough to seek out help speaks much louder than an inability to come to a conclusion on your own.

Was this article useful? You may also like to learn how to teach kids to respect others; particularly when it comes to siblings and elders.

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