As a teen matures, she’ll naturally start to distance herself from you and assert herself as she becomes more independent. Even though she’s becoming more autonomous, your teen needs your guidance as she gains the skills needed to become a responsible adult. That makes communication even more important at this stage in her development. In its “Communicating with Your Teen” series, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System suggests that instead of trying to plan the perfect moment to talk with your teen, you can help improve communication, using activities. Use the time to enjoy each other. But remember to avoid turning conversations into lectures.
Building something for the home with your teen is a productive way to spend time with your child, open the lines of communication and build skills together. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System states in the publication “Building with Your Parent or Teen” that building something functional with your teen allows you to talk as you complete the project, learn more about each others' tastes and provides a conversation piece after you finish. Involve the young person in every step of the project -- from helping pick the colors to hammering in nails -- to show that you trust him and respect his opinion. Choose a building project based your skill levels and talents. For example, if your teen is artistic, paint a room together and let him design a mural on one of the walls. Alternatively, if your teen’s room needs extra storage space, put up shelves or build a bookcase together.
Looking at old photos and videos lets you and your teen to recount fond memories and reminds your child of the love that you have for her. In addition to sparking happy emotions in a young person, enjoying the memories may give your teen a new perspective on your relationship, find new interests to share and improve communication, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in the publications “Electronic Family Album” and “Family Memory Night.” Revisit fond memories with a home movie night that shows the highlights of old video recordings. If your teen enjoys video editing, she can help choose the clips to watch and make a DVD. If you captured the memories on photographs, go through the pictures together and create a scrapbook. Similarly, harness your teen’s picture-editing skills and have her help you make a digital photo album with digital photos and scanned items such as letters. Display the photo album in a digital photo frame or have a company print it in book form.
If you and your teen have busy schedules, turn a cork board, magnetic chalkboard or a magnetic whiteboard into a message center that allows you to share jokes, messages, notes, upcoming events, pictures, artwork, quotes and other information. The message center helps open the lines of communication between you and your teen, and lets you learn more about each others' sense of humor, values, preferences and creative skills. Instead of leaving the board plain, dress up part of it with your teen using wrapping paper or a poster the young person likes. Change the board’s decorations or theme often. Place the board in a place that the two of you will see regularly and supply enough markers, pushpins, magnets or chalk to encourage your teen to use it. Have your teen help you update the board every week with a new joke, quote, artwork or pictures that she likes.
A Day in the Life
When you and your teen are more involved in each others' lives, your teen may be willing to communicate with you more openly, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in the publication “Take Your Parent to School or Your Teen to Work.” When you get a taste of your child’s school life and he gets to experience a day at your office, you’ll find commonalities that can spur conversations and make it simpler to relate to one another. For example, maybe you’ll find that the school principal is like your boss. If your teen is up to it and the school agrees, spend the whole day at school with him, eat lunch in the cafeteria, share his books and meet his teachers. Use the day to gain a new experience. If your teen isn’t up to a day at school with you, have him give you an after-school tour so you can meet his teachers, see the classrooms, visit his locker and see where he hangs out during lunch. When you take the young person to work, introduce him to your coworkers and boss, show him all the tasks you do and let him help you, if possible.