The Key to a Great Parent Teen Relationship

Why Love is Key to a Great Relationship Between Parents and Teens

How often do you go out of the way to develop your relationship with your significant other?

How about your teenager?

All good relationships take a lot of time and energy to build a lasting bond. This can be especially difficult between parents and teens. At times it might feel that your relationship with your adolescent is teetering on a cliff and might collapse at any minute.

A teen is developing their own identity- one that is apart from his family. It is normal for there to be ups and downs, but the key to bonding and strengthening your connection might be the secret power of love.

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Nature Versus Nurture

There has long been a debate over which influences a child the most: the role of genetics or the environment. 

The role a parent plays when a child is young is vital to their development. They provide more than the basic needs- they mold a child’s brain. Over a decade of research has proven that “neglect is awful for the brain”.  Children need someone to provide a stable source of “attention, affection, and stimulation” for optimal development.

The family unit is often the place where a child receives these needs. Parents understand this concept when children are young. However, we sometimes forget that ALL kids, regardless of age, still need our love and attention.

Importance Of Bonding

Encouraging a positive home life is shown to affect intelligence and overall performance in life. Children learn how to overcome adversity, grow relationships, and interact with their environment from their parents. It’s important to never underestimate the role of parental bonding--even during the teenage years when the brain is undergoing rapid development.

A lot of researchers cite the studies of children who were adopted from Romanian orphanages in 1980’s and 1990’s. Many of these children were “neglected” emotionally and exhibited odd behaviors. They displayed delayed language and other symptoms that suggested inadequate brain development. Through brain studies, it was proven that the children had smaller brains.

The surprising deprivation that caused this lack of brain development didn’t have anything to do with nutrition or early childhood education. It was due to “the lack of a parent or someone who acted like a parent” bonding with the child.

How To Encourage A Loving Relationship

The extreme example of children raised in orphanages is not commonplace. However, emotions and hormones can make it difficult to cultivate a loving relationship between teens and their parents. Slamming doors and stomping feet can easily curb the best of intentions. 

Here are some tried and true ways to strengthen a parent and teen relationship:

Be involved. You don’t have to be a helicopter parent, but taking the time to show up for class events, games, and parent teacher conferences sends the message that you care. Extend this to his social life to know who his friends are and what he is interested in. Be a “visible part” of his life.

Choose your battles. This is hard- especially when your child insists on getting their ear pierced or dyeing his hair neon pink. However, it is important to let your child learn some lessons on his own. Reserve the times when you say “no” for important decisions that go against your family’s morals or is a safety issue.

Schedule time to bond. High School is stressful and almost every minute of a teen’s day is scheduled with practices, meetings, classes, and events. Remember to pencil in times to reconnect. Simply eat dinner together or set aside a day just to have fun.

Support their accomplishments, successes, and even failures. Acknowledging your teen will let him know you notice his actions. Noticing that he didn’t procrastinate on his homework or he nailed his band solo sends the message you still care.

Listen first; then ask questions. Pay attention, but avoid putting him or his ideas down. Be interested about things important to him- friends, music, movies, school, and work.

Remember, they are still children. Your son might act and talk like adult, but his brain won’t be fully developed until the age of 25. Hormones and emotions fuel this process which can create poor judgment and fluctuating moods. Take a deep breathe and remember that it is normal for people to make mistakes as they learn.

A Little Love Goes A Long Way In Life

Recognizing that your teenager still benefits from intentional and loving relationships is the first step in strengthening your bond. Accepting your teen without belittling him, will help you become his emotion role model and coach. Love is actually a powerful tool when raising well adjusted adults.

Take these precious years as an opportunity- not a burden and enjoy the journey.

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be. You can follow her on Twitter.


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