Connecting with your Teen

For some parents the teen years loom as uncharted and scary territory.

Clinical psychologist John Duffy, author of “The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens,” thinks teenagers are funny, smart and thoughtful.

“You should enjoy this time,” he says. “There’s something remarkable in every kid.”

But he fears too many parents are caught up in battles over grades or hair or are simply too busy to connect with their children. His prescription: a daily dose of you. Take time every day and be available to your teen. “It’s not about being physically there all the time, but you need those moments when you connect,” Duffy says.

To be fully present with your teen means you are NOT:

  • Looking at your computer
  • Typing on your blackberry
  • Bringing up your gripes
  • Asking accusing questions

What you ARE doing is:

  • Making eye contact
  • Asking open and curious questions, without judgment
  • Talking about what interests him or her
  • Listening and not lecturing

It’s “Tell me why you like that song,” instead of “Can you turn that racket down?” or “How was practice today?” not “Are you going to make the ‘A’ team?”

“You need to build up a balance—an emotional bank account—with your kids,” says Duffy. He has worked with many families who had a negative balance in their account and then when the teen/parent relationship hit a difficult patch, there was no good will to fall back on.

He notes that some parents are lost in an agenda of worry—from their kid’s GPA to how to control their child, but he says, “You’re never going to control them.”

His goal is to help parents create resilience in their relationships with their children. “It will all work much more smoothly if we protect this positive time and try to be more available to our children.”

Duffy will be speaking at The Book Stall on Friday, May 13 at 7 p.m.

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