The 5 Simple-But-Effective Ways I Connect With My Teen

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I have four children — a teen, two tweens, and a kindergartner. I had lots of childcare experience before becoming a mom. I started babysitting when I was 12, and from there I was a nanny, worked at a daycare, and tackled other various babysitting jobs while attending high school and college. Of course, all of this is great, but it’s not the same as being someone’s mom.

Parenting little ones was easy for me. Of course, there were many diaper changes, sick days, and middle-of-the-night feedings, but I was confident in my abilities. In the blink of an eye, my oldest became a teenager, and all the sudden, I felt rather helpless and unsure. Was I mom enough for her? Was I screwing up my kid? What was I doing too much of? At the same time, she was — as teens are — more resistant, more opinionated, and more moody.

This isn’t my first rodeo with teens. I taught college students for nine years, most of whom were 18 years old. Science tells us that a person’s brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. I knew raising teens wouldn’t be a walk in the park, because my students were challenging. I naively figured that raising teens would come naturally to me — just like raising younger kids. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.)

I have leaned back on what I know about the importance of attachment and connection. In some ways, raising teens isn’t all that different than raising younger children. Some of their needs are absolutely the same — if not even more intense during the teen years. I committed to connecting with my teen—and it’s worked well. Of course, we still deal with the ups and downs of teendom, but we have a stable foundation to go back to when times get tough.

I Tuck My Teen Into Bed Every Night

Remember when our kids were babies? We’d read them a bedtime story and rock them to sleep. The calming routine was a sacred time. Our teens aren’t any different. Yes, they yearn for independence — but they also want safety, reassurance, and empathy.

Every night, I tuck my teen daughter into bed after we hang out for a few minutes and chat. Sometimes I utilize conversation cards (a stack of cards with questions on each one). Sometimes I play the “ask me anything” game which can be a lot of fun for us. Sometimes we color or draw. We’ve also done meditations together. It’s amazing what’s shared in this low-pressure, calm environment. Each child is different. My oldest tween prefers to play a game together.

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