Life is so easy
when you are young.
When kisses heal boo-boos
and lullabies are sung.
It seemed that life could go on for years,
as long as the nightlight was there
to quiet our fears.
Why does growing up
have to be so hard?
When did the world become
bigger than our own back yard?
There is no more recess
to stop the stress of the school day.
There are no more falling stars
that can take our worries away.
Decisions are more complicated
now that we are grown,
why can’t we go back
to when life was our own?
The above poem written by an adolescent illustrates the very real pain that many teenagers feel when growing up and leaving childhood behind. It’s often hard for parents to see their children pulling away – but we don’t always realize that it can be very difficult for the adolescents themselves. To that end, I have dedicated today’s column to parents and teenagers who are trying to stay connected to each other. I have included some tips for teenagers to better engage their parents in way that feels safe and enjoyable.
Therefore, for those adolescents who might be reading this, before I get into the specifics of how you might be able to bond with your parents in a positive and constructive way – let me first explain why it is important to have a relationship with your mother and your father.
Researchers at Montclair University in the U.S. found that adolescent bonding with parents influence teenager’s platonic and romantic relationships into adulthood. Using your relationship with your parents as a model for healthy relationships, you learn to develop successful relationships with others. So, aside from making your home life more comfortable and enjoyable, connecting with your parents will benefit your future relationships as well.
Using your successful relationship with your parents as a guide, you will be better equipped to maintain long-term relationships in the future. So, how can you bond with your parents? What are some ways to connect that will be enjoyable to all of you? Over the course of thirty years of work with teenagers, I have compiled a list of possible bonding strategies. Try one (you might find you actually enjoy spending time with your mother or father!):
- Include them in your hobby. Whether you enjoy biking, playing basketball, or taking and developing photographs, consider letting your parent get involved. Ask your father if he would like to pick a day of the week that works for him to bike with you. Just by spending time together you will begin to develop a bond that connects just the two of you. In addition, this shared hobby will create other opportunities for conversation, such as where there are new bike paths or when a bike race is coming up. This is a great way to involve your parents in your life without giving up the things that you love.
- Get involved in one of their hobbies. Another bonding opportunity is to get involved with what your parents love. If your mother loves to read, paint, or swim, consider asking her if you can join her. If you read the same book at the same time, you can discuss it along the way. In addition to spending quality time with your mother, you might enjoy expanding your horizons with some new activities.
- Do some good together. Nothing brings people together more than doing community service or chesed together. You can bake challahs with your mother and deliver them to the elderly in your neighborhood or convince your father to drive to a local hospital and visit ill children. Getting out of the house and doing something together will make both you and your parents feel good about yourselves. This in turn will breed positive feelings between the three of you.
- Create a set time for tea or coffee: It’s hard to connect with people if you don’t have dedicated time to sit down and simply be with each other. Depending on your workload and on your parents’ schedules, choose the right amount of time to allot for your time together (a half-hour once a week is more than sufficient, but a half-hour daily is also wonderful). If you express to your parents that you would like to spend some alone time with them, they will be thrilled to dedicate their time to you. After all, not many teenagers show interest in their parents!
Aside from the benefits to your future relationships, developing a positive relationship with your parents now will make your life at home significantly less stressful. When you feel connected to your parents (and your parents feel connected to you), your parents are more likely to trust you. With their trust, you will likely have more freedom to do the activities you love. And, maybe, just maybe, your parents will learn to love those activities too.
For all those struggling parents of adolescents out there: the above instructions can easily be flipped. Your teen might insist on pushing you away, but if you get involved in things that you both enjoy, chances are that you will begin to relish spending time together as well. In the long run, you will not only be improving your relationship with your child, but also your child’s ability to develop successful relationships in the future.