Chances are the list of things you and your teen BOTH find interesting is pretty short. There are probably days where it feels like the Venn Diagram is actually just two separate circles that don’t intersect at all. Not only are you a full generation apart in age and maturity, but your teen is in that critical stage of self-identification, meaning they’re trying a variety of interests and characteristics. Trying to connect with your teen can feel like you’re trying to hit a moving target. However, connecting with your teen is absolutely critical for helping them navigate these difficult years – especially if they’re troubled or difficult.
5 Ways to Connect and Care About Your Teen’s Interests
- Stop Forcing Your Interests. This is incredibly difficult for a lot of parents. Maybe basketball has been a key interest of yours and your family for decades, but suddenly your teen shows zero interest. If you are constantly trying to force your daughter to watch the movies you love or take up your passion for gardening – you’re likely to fail. Teens often express their independence by purposely resisting their parent’s identities. It’s often one of many symptoms of teen issues with authority figures.
- Allow them Choice. Let them pick the movie this weekend. Ask them what they would like for dinner. When you allow them choices you are indicating that you respect their independence and recognize that they have their own interests.
- Address their Body. It’s an awkward topic for everyone, so it’s easy to avoid it. But facts are just facts – one of your teen’s main interests, across the board, is her body. You can ignore it or you can tackle it head on. Allow her options to discuss her body, and encourage healthy interests surrounding her body – such as exercise, sports, cooking healthy foods, and a rational approach to beauty products, style, and fashion.
- Listen, even when they aren’t talking to you! We’re not advocating that you listen at doors or tap their phones. Just make it a point to listen to what they say – whether it’s to you, siblings, other family members, or their friends. They may be frequently mentioning something they’re interested in – in the hopes that someone will talk to them about it. Don’t miss this critical chance to connect.
- Ask them to Teach You. Be prepared for some eye-rolling or teasing, but it’s worth it. Ask them to teach you how to use a new app, or have them show you the new game they’re playing with their friends. If they’re into a series of books – read them. If they are getting into a new sport, club, or activity – ask them to teach you the basics. It goes a long way.
Your teen is rarely too far gone, and you can seize opportunities like these to connect with your teen and care about the things they care about. If you feel or find that your teens interests are dangerous, problematic, or harmful to themselves or others – get help from counselors or therapeutic options as soon as possible. The interests and identities of teen years can have long-term implications for both your teen and your family.
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