Dealing with teenagers is an almost universal experience. After all, your daughter is going through some of the most stress-inducing points of her life between school, extracurriculars, and her own mind and body, and you’re trying to do your best to guide her through it. All too often, these attempts end in frustration, fraught with yelling and stomping through the house. But, with a few easy practices in place, you can connect with your teenage daughter to build a strong, lasting relationship.
Bond Over Shared Interests
A quick Google (or Twitter) search can give you an idea of what “kids these days” are into. But even if your daughter has less conventional interests, figuring out what they are shouldn’t be difficult. If all else fails, ask! If you can’t bring yourself to be interested in Tik Tok or her interests aren’t well-suited to being done with someone else, you can always create some new shared hobbies. Maybe you both enjoy trying on clothes, in which case shopping trips might be a good fit. Put together some outfits at your favorite store, from white sweaters and blue jeans to little black dresses and stilettos, and you’ll not only get to bond with your daughter, but you’ll have the opportunity to build her self esteem at the same time.
Remember That She’s Not Quite an Adult (Yet)
No matter how mature she might seem at times, she isn’t included in “young adults” yet. She’s learning more about herself and the world and learning as she goes. She’ll make mistakes and, as much as you want to protect her, she’ll have to solve problems on her own to grow. Be patient and strike a balance between treating her like a child and adult she soon will be.
Be Open to “Taboo” Topics
The best parent-child relationships stem from a place of acceptance and affirmation. Make sure your daughter knows you’re here for her if she wants to discuss sex or sexuality, health (both mental or physical), or other such subjects. It will likely be uncomfortable, but this conversation will give her all the more reason to trust you. Of course, if you see signs of mental health issues like substance abuse, behavioral problems, eating disorders, or self-harm behaviors, know when to call in the experts. A good residential treatment center for teens will help your daughter through whatever she’s going through and include you in her treatment plan.
Yes, this means you need to look up from the phone, too, just like you tell her at the dinner table. Pay attention when she talks to you, and even when she withdraws. You don’t need to badger for information when her mood is poor one evening, nor do you need to ask what she’s doing at every waking moment. Simply being available to listen when she comes to you (about a crush or a meme she found) will make all the difference in your relationship.
Be the Grown-Up
Make sure she doesn’t need to parent you and, just as importantly, make sure that you aren’t working to be her best friend instead of her parent. If you make a mistake, own up to it and take that responsibility. You’ll set a great example and help yourself grow along the way. Know when to lay down the law, so to speak, and when you can be more lenient. You won’t always get it right, but the effort alone is beneficial.
Work with Her
Remember when you were a teenager? Chances are you had moments of discontent, too. The teen years are hard, so it’s important to work with your daughter. She’s going to have bad days. The two of you will fight. She’ll roll her eyes or slam the door, or forget to take out the garbage and make her bed. Be understanding as you help her learn and work through these moments. Remember: this too shall pass.
Connecting with your teenage daughter might seem like a mountain you just can’t climb, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Whether you’re bringing a smile to her face with a new sweater or hoodie or having a serious heart-to-heart, building your relationship and strengthening the connection is absolutely doable.