NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Being Connected to Your Teen

Being Connected to Your Teen


Although growth and change are a normal part of life, some parents wish they could skip the teenage years. They fear the challenges associated with children who are growing, acting out or thinking for themselves. However, the teenage years can represent an opportunity for great growth and learning. Parents must learn to think and communicate differently with their children at this stage of life. The tasks of parenting shift from changing diapers and reading books together to teaching money management and preparing their teens to find their way in the world.

Certain factors exist that are “protective” of teenagers and help lower the risk for concerns, such as suicide, depression, substance abuse and delinquency. Factors that protect teenagers from challenges include: 

 -  Connectedness to parents and family

 -  Parental regulation and monitoring of behavior

-   Healthy decision making and autonomy of adolescents

-   Positive peer group relationships

One finding related to positive parental behavior is the idea of “consistent involvement.”  This means teenagers appreciate and benefit from the “connection” that develops when parents engage in shared activities with them on a regular basis. Opportunities for parents and teens to talk and discuss important values and concerns increase with consistent involvement and time together.

What does “connectedness” look like? Connectedness can be described as a positive, warm and stable emotional bond between parent and child.  For example, youth who share five to seven meals a week with family are significantly less likely to use drugs or be sexually active than those who eat with their family fewer than five times a week.

Connection develops trust. Youth understand parents’ expectations and ask themselves, “What would Mom or Dad say?”  Connection develops self-worth. Youth who feel this value themselves; this feeling lessens their need for seeking attention or approval in risky behaviors. Connection develops social confidence.  Teens are more able to engage in positive social interaction.

How do we develop connection with our teens?

-         Express affection frequently and openly to children through hugs and signs of approval. Your teen needs to feel your love now as much as ever.

-         Display encouragement and interest. Talk to your child and support his or her healthy activities.

-         Spend time in shared activities, including recreation, chores and community service to others. 

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