Creating lasting connections with those most important to us is getting harder and harder all the time. It is only going to get worse as most homes have computers and most people have cell phones. As a society we become disconnected, we lose that personal touch. Yet, we do not lose our need and our desire for it. Creating these lasting connections with our family and our children, especially as they grow into the teen and college years is now and will be critical.
We all know that families and children don’t come with instructions. I think by the time children reach the teen years parents really need those instructions. I have some tools and strategies that can help. I’ll give you a taste of them.
It certainly is different being a teenager these days than it was for me and probably for most of you too. I know there are the usual challenges such as peer pressure, relationship issues, studying and academic issues. The addition of computers, video games, the internet, Facebook, texting, pressure to perform and texting while driving have made things a lot more complicated.
Then there is the cell phone. It was not too long ago that the hot topic and probably still is for many families is what age to give your child a cell phone. For me it’s not so much about what age as it is about how to best make use of it, for you and your children.
All too often the cell phone is a way for the parent to be replaced. It can be an excuse or even a justification to drop your child off somewhere and even to let someone else do the parenting. There is this sense that children don’t need to be looked after because they have a cell phone. It seems that it is no longer necessary for a parent to hang out at the soccer field for practice because your child can now call you if they need to. Don’t get me wrong, there is a definitely a place for cell phones and they can make things so much easier, my caution would be in how to use them.
Kids are getting cell phones at a younger and younger age; seriously I see 7 or 8 year olds with them, all of the time. The problem is that these kids also are no longer making these personal connections at a younger and younger age. Sometimes it is easier to send a quick text, trust me, I appreciate being able to do that. But it is very hard to get emotional and physical support from a text. Even the best communicators will have trouble with that. Without it, we are definitely missing something and it affects us all, including our relationships with our families.
Another factor is teens have their own ideas of how they’ll spend their time and what they do to relax. They are most likely very different from yours. Take for instance schedules. Teens and young adults in college, have way different schedules than we do. They stay up late and sleep in late. We all know the idea, the party doesn’t start until 10pm. Parents usually get up earlier and are ready to go and do something, and their kids are still sleeping. I am sure you have noticed this before, ‘half the days over and they’re just getting up.’
Your kids are older and they have a mind of their own. And they have struggles of their own. They don’t want to upset you or frustrate you but they want to be independent, make their own decisions and do what they want. Frankly, we as parents want that for them too.
It makes for a lot of tension and struggle.
What do you do? You need some help and some answers for how to work this out with them.
Here are 5 things you can do…
1. Realize that you can no longer force them to do it your way. There was a time when you could just tell them, this is how we do it. Now that they are older they have their own ideas and they’re willing to hold to them, regardless of what you say. Honestly, you can’t really make anyone do anything. You can only make your request and then do what’s right for you.
2. Be proactive. Talk about it beforehand. Let everyone in the family know what the expectations are. This is big, especially for moms who easily feel guilty if they are not taking caring of everyone. Express your expectations and give others, including your kids a chance to express there’s. This is a great one for helping out with household chores.
3. Spend time doing what others like to do. This will immediately foster strong connections and a sense of caring. Teens today have different things they like to do for fun. For example, they like to go out to eat, drive around, go shopping, play video games, text and get on Facebook to name a few of the common ones. They also like to watch TV and their favorite TV shows are having an effect on them.
4. Colleges haves seen a rise in the interest in their Forensic Science and Psychology programs due to the increasing popularity of TV shows such as CSI and Criminal Minds.
5. Have your own things to do. Have your own ‘bag of tricks’. Seriously, this is a godsend. Think on a smaller scale as well as a larger one. Have a book or newspaper to read, take a walk, go get some breakfast. As well as, volunteer, hobbies and friends to get together with. This way you are not waiting for them to do something and they know you are taking care of yourself too.
Meet them halfway and respect their routine. Having respect for the way other’s want to do things is important and will make things easier in the long run. They’ll want to talk to you more, be around you more and enjoy it too. For example, “If they want to sleep till 11, fine but at 11:05 we’re going to do this..”
Meet them on their own terms or turf. It has to do with how they do things. Learn their language in order to communicate better with them. Learn to text. If that is their way of communicating, learn to do it. There is a place for personal face to face conversations, but texting can be appropriate in a lot of ways. It will get their attention and they will most likely respond. There is that unwritten rule to respond to texts. You know that line, ‘why didn’t you text me back?’ your teens take that seriously.
Staying connected with those who are important to you, in any way, is a challenge. Unfortunately it is only going to get worse. As technology continues to grow and the demands put on all of us continue to grow as well, it will be harder and harder to create lasting connections. In addition, as technology changes the way we all communicate, staying connected with our families will be even more critical for our own well being and then that of our children.