4. Insist on family time. They love spending time with everyone. They won’t tell you that. But they do. They want to eat dinner as a family. Play games as a family. Vacation as a family. Have movie night or ice cream dates without boyfriends or neighbors or technology. Set aside specific time, weekly, to spend as a family unit. After all, there are approximately 940 Saturdays from the day they are born to the day they leave for college. Make them count.
5. Give me room to breathe. Teens love it when you recognize that they need time to be alone. Without a thousand questions. When you give them their space you are telling them that you trust them.
6. Say you are proud of me. Teenagers are over dramatic. They don’t think you love them unless you say it. And they need to hear it over and over – because they don’t listen. So keep telling them you are proud of them. And while you’re at it, add in an I love you. They like to hear that, too.
7. Talk to me like I’m an adult. We know that they aren’t adults, they just think they are. And a lot of times they misconstrue our concern as attitude because they think we are treating them like babies. We know that is not our intent. However, when we purposefully talk to them as if they are our equals, they see it as respect. No matter how ridiculous this may seem, it’s true. And one thing I’ve learned about teenagers, it’s all in how they perceive your tone. When they perceive you as showing them respect, they are more likely to give it back.
8. Hug me. They want to feel the physical security of your touch. This is a nonverbal I love you or I am proud of you. They love knowing that even though they are older, they are still your kid. On those days when everything just seems to go all wrong, it’s your hug that keeps them going.
9. Have inside jokes with just me. When you give them your secret hand motion or whisper your secret password or write a simple postscript that only y’all know, you strengthen your relationship. You validate and encourage your bond. You make them feel special.
10. Listen. I hear this more than anything else – either they wish their parents would listen or they are grateful that their parents do listen. They want to feel heard. They want to feel like their voice matters. They want to feel like what they say is important. When you listen, you validate. You may not agree. You may not like what you hear. But you are listening – and encouraging them to explore their own voice. This important because the worst thing a teen can feel is that they are not being heard.