May 01, 2017 —

Family relationships are dynamic, and parents know this all too well when they watch their child transform into a teenager. While strained parent and teen relationships may make for hilarious jokes on a television comedy, in real life it can be truly hurtful to watch as a once-loving relationship suddenly becomes distant right before your very eyes. This is especially true if your teen starts down the road of drugs and sneaks pills from your medicine cabinet right from under your nose. It may be tough to hear as a parent, but many of the conflicts that you are experiencing right now are resulting from your child’s desire for independence. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to accept bad behavior or let it break up your family. Instead, use these fun ideas as springboards to help build your relationship into one that enhances both your and your teenager’s lives.

Schedule Weekly One-On-One Time
Parents often hear this, but it is worth repeating. Even though your teenager may act as though they don’t want your attention, spending time together one-on-one makes them feel loved. While it may take some effort to synchronize your schedules, it is worth it when you get those precious chances to get to know more about your teenager. Whether you go to lunch or work on a school project together, fitting in some one-on-one time allows you the opportunity to connect.

Tackle a Challenge Together
Right now, your teenager is forming a new perception of you and your relationship. While it may seem as though they are constantly critical, they are just trying to figure out exactly how to merge their new understanding of life with the idealistic view they had of you as a child. Asking your teen to join you on a little adventure gives them a chance to see that you acknowledge the importance of learning new things. Giving back to the community, training for a marathon or just learning a new skill together lets your teen see you model how to learn from mistakes and press on toward reaching your goals.

Stop Talking
Well, don’t completely stop talking to your teen, but definitely look for more opportunities to listen. Too often, parents immediately jump to lecturing or try to give advice when teens really just need to vent. Try giving your teen your total attention the next time they burst through the doors upset about something that happened with their friends or teachers at school. Once they have let it all out, ask a few open-ended questions to see if your teen can figure out a solution to their problem. They’ll walk away from the conversation feeling as if you truly heard their needs, and you might be impressed by the mature answer they come up with.

Establish Clear Boundaries
Trying to be too friendly is a common mistake many parents make with their teen, and being too permissive confuses your teen about your family relationships. That being said, you should still remember that some rules may need to be changed as your teen advances in age. For instance, a curfew may need to be relaxed for a special school dance or if your teenager needs to work late. Sit down with your teen, and work out a set of boundaries that everyone can agree upon along with clear consequences for what happens if they get broken. If necessary, create a written contract with your teen that can be referred to for accountability.

Take a Walk Down Memory Lane
Looking back on the past can sometimes help you build a stronger relationship for the future. Teens may groan at the sight of that baby album, but deep down inside they appreciate the efforts that you have made along the way. Look at some baby pictures together, or go visit that park that they loved as a child and have a picnic. Sharing favorite family memories reminds both you and your teen of how important your family ties are to everyone’s wellbeing.

Parenting a teenager is full of challenges, yet you can also look forward to getting to know your teen in a new light as they mature. Finding ways to laugh and bond as a family is as simple as deciding to make it a priority to spend time together. While a better relationship is not necessarily formed overnight, each special moment builds upon the next to deepen your family’s bond as you work through those inevitable challenges together.

Dr. Jeff Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been a respected leader in the field of emotional health, behavioral health and teen drug treatment for more than 15 years. During that time, Dr. Nalin has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model. You can connect with Dr. Nalin on Facebook and Twitter.