Q: I used to be so close with my fifteen-year-old daughter, but now it seems like she is constantly pushing me away. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to reestablish a connection with her?
A: Parent-teen relationships are often challenging and difficult. Many teens go through a process of individuation – learning to develop identities separate from their core family unit. This is healthy behavior and is important for your adolescent daughter as she grows older.
That being said, researchers at Montclair University in New Jersey have discovered that positive bonding experiences between teenagers and their parents benefit those teenagers’ relationships into adulthood. That is because using their parents as role models for healthy relationships teaches kids how to develop successful relationships with others. Therefore, aside from just reconnecting with your child, you will be imbuing her with necessary social skills for life.
So, how can you connect with your daughter? Here are some suggestions:
Leave your ego out of the equation. This is the hardest one for most parents. When your daughter was younger, you were the center of her universe. While hard to accept, now there are other people who play integral roles in her life. Choose to spend time with your daughter because you want to spend time with her – not because you think she should want to spend time with you. Often, your daughter will sense this change and want to spend more time with you.
Try one of her hobbies. If your daughter loves to read, take photographs, or ride her bike, consider asking her if she would let you join. Just spending time together will develop a bond that connects the two of you. Also, a shared hobby provides opportunities for discussion – where the best places are to photograph autumn foliage or the buzz about a new bestselling book. This way, you and your daughter can spend quality time together doing something she loves.
Get involved in chesed together. Often, teenagers need to see beyond their own lives; doing community services is a great way to broaden their horizons and do some good! Also, selecting a project that the two of you can do together (such as baking challahs for the elderly in your neighborhood or volunteering at a local soup kitchen) can do wonders for your. In addition, partaking in a constructive experience together will breed positive feelings between the two of you.
Set aside time for just the two of you. It’s hard to connect with people if you don’t have a dedicated time to simply be with each other – for tea after dinner when the house quiets down or a bike ride twice a week. Regardless, creating dedicated time for you and your daughter alone will give you the opportunity to really sit down and talk. Carving out a small portion of your week can send a message to both of you that you care about your relationship.
Aside from the benefits to your daughter’s future relationships, developing a positive relationship with her now will make your life at home significantly less stressful. Therefore, open yourself up to new experiences – explore the world your daughter’s world with her. After all, you never know which of her hobbies you just might want to take up yourself!