Building a strong relationship with your older child is so essential. Of course you’ve built a strong relationship with them all along, but when they get older the things you’ve always done may just need a little tweaking.
It is always nice to have a few new things to try, too, and as a mom of two teens and one tween, these are 10 things I’ve focused on with them at times. I’ve been so glad that I did.
Teens need some extra special care at times, and they also need a lot of extra understanding. I’ve written some about the unique needs of teens in What Your Teen Really Needs From You. You can also find some information specific to teen girls in 4 Things You Must Know as the Mom of a Teen Girl and 4 Things You Must Do as the Mom of a Teen Girl. Teen boys get their turn in 10 Things Your Growing Son Needs From His Mom and 15 Dates to Take With Your Older Son.
Here are 10 great things that will help bring you and your older child closer.
Give them your time
Give them your time even if they say they don’t want or need it. This doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can be something as simple as working alongside one another. Sometimes I will sit next to my daughter while she is working on her computer and I’m working on mine. Sometimes we occasionally chat, and sometimes we just quietly work. Even in somethings as simple as this, I am giving her my time.
Pay attention to what they say and what they don’t say
Verbal is one thing, but non-verbal communication is huge, especially if you have a teen in your life. There is nothing quite like the teen eye roll, and it seems to be something that is fairly universal among teens and even tweens. The key is to pay attention when they talk and to pay attention to their moods. Oftentimes their body language can tell you everything you need to know.
Remain aware of the social trends
Not all social trends are good ones, but keeping up on the world that your older teen is a part of is a way that you can build a strong relationship with your older child. Remaining aware of what older kids are wearing, the technology they are using, and even the social media fads in addition to the things their friends are doing on a social level with friends are ways that you can be a part of your older child’s world. Being part of their world is a way that you communicate that they are important to you.
Engage them in conversation daily
This doesn’t mean it always has to be a deep conversation, but just something to show that you are interested in your older child. Some kids like to talk and will engage you a fair amount, but if you have a child whose personality is more quiet, you will have to put forth an enormous effort here. The interesting thing is that once they start talking, they are usually wiling to keep talking. Questions are great here.
Learn about the things they enjoy
At least to the best of your ability. My son gets in the car and wants to tell me all about certain football plays. As hard as I try, I can’t keep them straight no matter what I do. This whole concept comes back to becoming a student of your child. Find out what makes them tick and then learn more about it yourself – even if it in no way interests you.
Offer them your unconditional encouragement, support, and guidance
Sometimes it can be hard to cheer them on when they are doing something that we know is not their forte, but being there to encourage them anyway is a big relationship building experience. Of course part of this would also mean that you are there to pick up the pieces that are left when something doesn’t go well for them. You are to be their biggest cheerleader. Always.
Find a way to nurture their natural skills, abilities, and talents
Of course these things will be limited by finances and availability at the least, but doing whatever you can do to help your child excel in whatever they love and are good at is a way of building up your older child. This can take some creativity, at times you could even barter service for service when it comes time to provide your child with lessons or something like that.
Provide them with rules, boundaries, and limitations
These will be things that they most likely won’t ask for, but they are things that tell your child that they have value, that they are important to you, and that you care about them enough to do the hard stuff. Let’s face it, establishing and enforcing rules take an enormous amount of time and effort, and who really likes dealing with these things, but they must be done.
Administer discipline when needed
Of course this is rarely fun either, but discipline is just as important with our older children as it is with our younger kids. Just like with rules, the discipline is the follow-through that communicates that we love and care about our children. When they are young and when they are older, our children need to understand that their choices have consequences, like it or not. You can read more about our catchy saying that deals with choices and consequences in One Simple Way to Teach Kids That Behavior Has Consequences.
Love them unconditionally
Love them unconditionally, even when they aren’t very lovable. Of course our kids know we love them, but we have to be certain that they feel as though we love them all the time and without condition. Knowing they are loved and feeling they are loved are two very different things, and as our kids get older feeling our love has never been more important.
Watching my kids grow older has been an amazing journey for me. Each new day is an adventure, especially where teen girls are concerned, but we have some of the most amazing experiences and conversation together, too. Being intentional in your relationship with your older child by implementing some of these principles will enhance the love, respect, and camaraderie you share now and in the future.