By psychologist Jane Dodding
Staying connected to teenage children can feel difficult and frustrating, as they increasingly become more connected to their friends and peers than us.
It can sometimes feel like the only communication is us trying to get them to do something, change their behaviour or teach them something. And all we get in return is a grunt … if we're lucky! Yet they seem to talk constantly to their friends – either in person or on social media.
Although this can be hurtful, it's worth remembering that it is our responsibility as parents to maintain attachments with our children, to protect them and keep them close to ensure we are able to continue to influence and provide them with guidance and support. Here are some tips for maintaining communication and connection:
- Focus less on their behaviour and redirect your attention to restoring and maintaining the relationship. Woo them back into your relationship, be patient, give praise and be thankful.
- Protect your family time. Think about things they used to enjoy and create opportunities to do things together. Invite and entice them and expect them to be resistant or withdrawn initially, but persevere with patience.
- Be their compass. Assume your position as the person who helps them to orientate and navigate the world. When they were young, you instinctively did this by talking to them about what was going to happen, what something meant, who that particular person was and what was special about them etc. Regain your confidence to continue doing this (e.g. "This is where I’ll be today, you can contact me by phone if you need help." "What I have in mind for tonight is…" "You are the kind of girl who…" or "You have a real gift in...")
- Maintain connection when you are not together. Provide them with information about where you are – sending photos is an easy way to keep in contact and a great way to inject some humour and fun while maintaining regular contact.
- Use technology to your advantage. Know what social media they use, understand how it works, join in and use it to maintain regular connection.
If you regularly have time away from your kids (working fly-in, fly-out etc) you will need to work on reconnecting when you return. Create a ritual – something you always do together when you return (e.g. hiking, breakfast out, movie night at home).
If you'd like to read more on this topic, check out the great book Hold on to your kids: why parents need to matter more than peers, by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Matè.
We offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. Please allow one week for a personal email response. Please also note that Q&As may be published on the Mining Family Matters website to help other families coping with similar challenges, however all names, locations and identifying information will be removed to ensure your anonymity.
Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist and practical tips from mining families, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.
Jane Dodding is a highly experienced psychologist based in South Australia. www.mindsplus.com.au.