June 02, 2015 —

I’ve always enjoyed a fun, connected relationship with my own kids. In fact, when my daughter was a teen, the highest compliment she paid me was actually something I overheard her say in a phone conversation with a friend. One Friday night, her mom and I decided that later that evening we were going to a favorite restaurant that had live music. A few moments after our casual announcement, I overheard my daughter in her bedroom on her cell phone cancelling plans she had with a large group of friends. A few minutes later, she approached me and cheerfully asked, “Hey, can I come along?”

Let me give you my secrets to connecting with your teen based on my work with kids – both as a psychologist and a dad:

  1. Don’t give up on your teenager. This is a fundamental mistake that parents make. Often when their child reaches the teen or even tween years, parents believe their relationship will be in limbo until the child reaches adulthood. You can’t have a relationship if you don’t try, so whatever you do, don’t give up.
  2. Connect with new activities. Disney on Ice is not as cool as it was when your teen was eight years old. Find a new common ground, and play on it.
  3. Make your connection overwhelmingly desirable. Believe me: if you’re doing something awesome, your teen will want to join in.
  4. Be patient. Your teen still might refuse your attempts to connect. Don’t stop trying!
  5. Be genuine. It’s important to engage your teen by doing things he or she enjoys, but you shouldn’t feel as though your interests and passions need to be pushed to the wayside. Try to connect doing things that you like to do.
  6. Don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t force yourself to do activities that you will not enjoy. Let teens connect with friends on those ‘other’ activities. 
  7. Pay attention. Not sure what your teen likes to do? You can determine what he or she might enjoy by eliminating the things that he or she doesn’t enjoy.
  8. Pick unique connections. Connect with your teen on activities that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do alone or with friends. Take a day trip somewhere: it’ll provide you both with a change of scenery and will enable you to connect over something out of the ordinary and special.

Dr. John Mayer is a leading expert on teenagers and families. He is an active clinical psychologist as well as a consultant and lecturer. Dr. Mayer is also the author of over 20 books and 50 professional papers. Two of his three published novels tackle the problem of substance abuse. On his web site, www.DrJohnMayer.com, you will find podcasts, articles and videos on teenagers and families. You can also check out his fiction author site at www.jemayerbooks.com. And finally, you can connect with Dr. Mayer on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.