Be Sincere – If there is one thing a preteen or teenager can sniff out, it’s insincerity. They have an uncanny ability to know when people are or are not being authentic, including their parents. When you are acting contrived, they know it. Take time to ask genuine questions and then listen when they respond. They may only answer in one word, but it’s a start.
Show up – If you tell your athlete you will be at practice at a certain time, be at practice at that time. Nothing is more disappointing to a child than when we tell them something and don’t follow through. If you arrange a carpool, tell them who they are going with. Life happens, if you are going to be late picking up or dropping off, don’t make excuses or assess blame – just apologize and move on.
Find their Passion – Be interested in what your kids are interested in. Relationships and connections are about finding a common ground. We need to know what our kids are about. What do they love besides playing sports? What is their favorite band or television show, what interests them? Every kid loves their sport, but they love other things too. Find out what those things are.
Engage in their Passion – Once you know their passion, learn about it. Ask questions. Let your child teach you about it. Taking a genuine interest in what your kids care about connects you to them at a deeper lever. It speaks love to your child in a way that words cannot.
Push Past Resistance – We are talking about teens and preteens here, there will be resistance. Some kids will love that you are interested in what they care about. Some kids will shut down and resist all your attempts. If you have been nurturing and fostering this kind of connection from day one, you will likely just continue the course. If this is new for you, keep working at it. Try not to take it personally or retreat.
Apologize When Necessary – We all make mistakes. One of the best ways to connect is by admitting “Woah. My bad.” We do it in sports and we need to do it in relationship. A simple “I’m sorry, I messed up” is powerful coming from a parent. Our kids can see that we are all human and we all make mistakes and it gives them permission to be human too.
High/Low – A very practical way to connect on the car ride to or from practice may be playing the high/low game. Simply put, we ask our kids what their high point was for the day and what their low point was for the day. Try not to be offended if you are their low point – it happens.
Bedtime Routine – Just because they are too old for that last drink of water or a bedtime story doesn’t mean you cannot develop a bedtime routine. Bedtime is such a sacred time to connect with your child. You may not get more than a few minutes, but take the time to stop into their room before the night is over and tell them goodnight. Tell them you love them and ask them if they need anything. Don’t do it as a check list. If they need something, sit on the foot of the bed and listen. You may not get another moment like this for a month, but if you are consistent you can make this a habit.
Have Realistic Expectations – This is unchartered territory for most families. Our kids may not always reciprocate or appreciate our efforts, instead of a hug or a “thank you,” they may roll their eyes and say “whatever.” Expect a little push back, but savor the moments when things click.
You got this.
Written by Priscilla Tallman