Okay, let’s face it. I’m a cool mom!
At least according to the eldest of my two sons.
I never tried to be particularly cool, but it seems, somehow I found the secret to relating to my 14 year-old.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I was barely out of my teens when I got Bucky, or that I am still sometimes a child/teenager at heart myself.
All I can say is that, the way I am doing it seems to be working. So, I decided to share my experiences with all of you.
Of course, every teen as an individual is different and one has to furthermore distinguish between boy-teenagers and girl-teenagers, but certain basics apply to most of them.
I should probably also add that I didn’t just start bonding with Bucky, but engaged in his interests and ways of thinking for years, and of course, especially with my first child, I also made a lot of mistakes in the beginning (and maybe still do).
1. Acceptance, tolerance and an open mind
Now, for some parents, especially the more conservative ones, that is a big challenge. So, I want you to ask yourself this: do you want your child to trust you or not?
In my opinion, it is a parent’s responsibility to display and teach tolerance and acceptance. Be a good role model. It is okay to be different, it is okay to be weird. It is NOT okay to nurture bigotry or support any kind of discrimination.
Listen to your teen and don’t judge. Teenagers are vulnerable creatures. You might consider their problems as minor whereas for them, their whole world could come to an end.
When in doubt, just think back to how you thought and felt in that age. Be honest with yourself and you might realize, your teenage-son/daughter is not so different from how you were back then.
The more openminded, tolerant and accepting you are the more open and trusting your teenager will be. And the less likely he/she will be to rebel against your values and worldviews.
2. Go with the times
Don’t get stuck in your own past (unless of course it’s the 80s! Everyone should love the 80s). Learn what’s ‘hip‘ today. For example the fact that the word ‘hip‘ should never be used when talking to your teen.
You have to know what memes are and should acquaintance yourself with whatever is trending on YouTube right now.
Be careful not to overdo it though. If you don’t know what your teen is talking about, tell him/her. Don’t pretend to know, rather give him/her the opportunity to teach you something new.
Teens already think they know everything anyways, so if you feed their ego a bit, they will be much more willing to listen to you and learn from you.
3. Chores and responsibilities
Chore lists are a great way of fighting your teens laziness. You can make a point system that suits your purposes (let them work for their privileges). There are a lot of different versions and examples online. Explain and show your teen how much work you do, how hard it can be and how rewarding it is when it is done.
Chores teach the common teenager how to survive. Cooking, laundry, cleaning… a point system that resembles salary. It’s all to prepare them for their future. And if they complain, explain. The ego may have the upper hand, but he/she will listen and understand, if it is relatable to the teen’s world.
If your teen has younger siblings, you can give him/her a supervising position. For example, Bucky is responsible for making sure that his little brother, Koda, tidies up his room every day.
If Koda doesn’t clean up, neither of them will get any points. No salary for a job not done.
This teaches responsibility, which makes the teenager more aware of what’s going on around him/her and helps him/her to relate to and understand the adult world.
4. The changes they go through
Be considerate. A teen goes through heavy physical and emotional changes. Hormones go haywire, the body gets sudden growth spurts. Your teen needs a lot more sleep. He/she might be very cranky or weak when his/her blood sugar is too low. Headaches are more common. Dizziness frequently appears in connection with the rapid growth.
Let’s not forget all the insecurities a teen faces. Depression, heartbreak, social pressure… the list goes on.
Try to read the signs and don’t ignore or confuse them with laziness or bad behavior.
Of course that does not mean you should give your teen a free pass for everything.
Going back to the first tip, 1. Acceptance, tolerance and an open mind, listen to your teenager.
As you learn the way they talk and understand how they share, you will be more able to distinguish between the different moods and attitudes.
If you want to know more about how the brain of a teenager works, Psychology Today has a great article on that.
5. Shared interests
This one is my personal favorite. Shared interest are maybe the most important in relating to your teenager.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to force your hobbies and interest on him/her. It doesn’t work that way.
Of course, if you want to start nurturing the relationship before he/she even hits the teenage-years, introducing your likes and maybe some of your own childhood interests at an earlier age might be beneficial.
However, it is most important to find out what it is your teen likes. After that you can move on by connecting your likes to his/hers. Talk to your teenager. Let him/her get excited and open up.
The more they are willing to talk about what moves them, the more likely it is that they will want to share their interests with you and maybe even include you.
Do not try too hard!
The teenager will feel akward instead of opening up. You might come across as being totally out of place, if you suddenly start dressing, talking and acting the way he/she does.
Small subtle changes and involvement. Baby steps into the teenager’s world. Don’t scare your teen off, instead, as you move towards his/her world, let him/her come towards you.
In our case
Star Wars and Pokémon, were the initial glue that formed the bond when Bucky was around seven years of age.
Bit by bit, the field of interests widened. Besides playing video games with him and going to the movies for every single MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movie you could possibly think of, we also have meaningful conversations about everything and anything that comes to mind.
Even when he has his friends over, he very often asks me to be around or join in the game.
As Bucky gets older, I do hope our bond will remain.
At least on my end, I will try to keep an open mind, stay up to date, continue to teach responsibility, be considerate of the things he goes through and always make sure we have interests to share and things to talk about.
Of course I will apply the same to my younger son Koda, when the time comes.
None of these tips mean that you should in any way compromise your authority as a parent. Just remember: outside the parent/child dynamic, there is room for friendship.
I hope some of these tips might help you to relate to your teenager. Also, you should read Family Growth Life’s post on parenting mistakes.
If you have any suggestions or would like to share your experiences, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with me directly on the Contact page.