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Parent-Teen Relationships

Parent-Teen Relationships at a Glance

  • Good parent-teen relationships include respect, understanding, trust, and concern.
  • We can build good relationships with our teens by spending time together, keeping promises, using humor, and appreciating their efforts and strengths.
  • Teens are less likely to take risks if they have good relationships with their parents.

Parenting teenagers has rewards and challenges. As our kids grow into teenagers, they gain a great deal of independence. That's a normal and natural part of growing up. But even as they increase their independence, we need to keep our relationships as close to them as we did when they were small children. They still need us to love, guide, and have fun with them. And we can find much fulfillment and happiness through our relationships with them.

Here are some questions and answers about how good parent-teen relationships can help keep teens healthy and safe and what we can do to build good relationships with our kids.

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    How Does Having a Good Relationship with Me Benefit My Teen's Health and Development?

    There are many reasons why a good parent-teen relationship is important in keeping teens safe and healthy. Research shows that when we are close with our teens, they are less likely to

    • get into trouble at school
    • get into trouble with things such as sex, drugs, drinking, and smoking

    By having a strong relationship with us, our teens are also more likely to accept our supervision, adopt our values and ideals, and follow our rules — even when we’re not around.

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    What Are the Qualities of a Good Parent-Teen Relationship?

    Experts agree that the most important qualities of a good relationship are

    • Respect for one another
    • Understanding each other’s feelings 
    • Being able to trust each other
    • Having concern for each other’s well-being
    • Knowing each other — what each other is like, what each other wants, and what each other likes and dislikes

    In a good relationship, our teens show us respect, take our feelings into account, trust us, are concerned about us, and are interested in our lives. Of course, all relationships are two-way streets. So, in good parent-teen relationships, we also show respect for our teens, take their feelings into account, trust them, are concerned about their well-being, and take interest in their lives.

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    What Are Some Tips for Parents for Building a Good Relationship with Teens?

    There are many ways to improve the relationship between us and our teens.

    Keep in Touch. We should touch base with our teens regularly, even when everything is going smoothly. We can let our teens know what’s going on in our lives and find out what they are up to. Keeping in touch regularly with our teens is one of the most important things we can do as parents. Teens feel their parents care about them when we take an interest in what’s happening in their lives. Teens — like all people — don’t want to feel ignored.

    Spend Time Together. Families are very busy these days. Between jobs, chores, and other things, there often is little time left over for enjoying each other’s company. We need to grab whatever time we can to be with our teens. It will help us occupy some of our teen’s free time, and we will get to know our teens better. It will help us build good relationships, and let our teens know we care. One mother, for example, plays basketball with her teen even though she is terrible at it. Whatever it takes — even if it’s just once a week. Or if it’s just a drive to the store together. Your teen will notice if you make time.

    Keep Promises. If we make promises to our teens, we must keep them if at all possible. When we are unable to keep our promises because of something that we can’t do anything about, we need to talk with our teens about it. We need to tell them that we are sorry. Our teens need to know they can count on us to keep our word. This is an important part of gaining trust and respect. If we keep our word, they are much more likely to keep theirs.

    Treat Our Teens Like Teens. Although our teens are not yet adults, they are no longer children and should not be treated like them. We mustn’t talk down to our teens. We must be honest with them. Statements like, “You’re too young to know about that” are disrespectful of a teen’s ability to understand.

    Be Thoughtful. Remember special days. It doesn’t have to be marked with a gift or special activity. We just have to let our teens know we’ve remembered. Every now and then, we can give our teens special little surprises. We might leave a note on our teens’ beds expressing how much we care for them. Or we might make our teens’ favorite meals — just because.

    Recognize Special Efforts. We mustn’t take our teens for granted. We need to praise their special efforts, such as doing well on a test, practicing hard for a game or performance, or being particularly kind to someone.

    Tell Them We Care. We love our children, but how often do we take the time to tell them? We need to tell our teens how much we care about them, every day. We should make it a habit!

    Be Supportive. When our teens have bad days, we can offer a shoulder to lean on. Even though our teens want to be grown up, they still need our support. We need to listen to them sympathetically.

    Avoid Hurtful Teasing. Sometimes we tease in a way that puts a person down. We can avoid teasing our children this way — especially in front of others. It really hurts.

    Use Humor and Lighten Up. We can use humor with our teens, and be willing to poke fun at ourselves at times. Joking around encourages a positive relationship.

    Appreciate Our Teens’ Special Strengths. We must accept our teens for who they are. Statements like, “Why can’t you be more like your older brother?” or “Your sister never gave me this much trouble” don’t help a teen do better. Such comments only make a teen feel bad. Every teen has special strengths. We must recognize these strengths and let our teens know it.

    Involve Our Teens in Setting Boundaries and Making Rules. As parents we must help our kids set boundaries and live with rules. But we can give them an active role in deciding what those boundaries and rules are.

    Be Real With Our Teens. By communicating openly and often with our teens, they will be able to relate to us as people who are truly concerned about their well-being. We also need to be courteous. Simple courtesies, such as saying “please” and “thank you,” and helping out in small ways go a long way to show how much we care. Basic good manners show caring and respect. And if we give respect, we get it back.

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