Being a teenager is hard, but being the parent of a teenager is sometimes harder. A parent can never over-prepare for the turbulent years ahead, and any little morsel of information you can gather may pay off in droves later. So here are a few of my favourite tried and true tips that I've used to build trust with my newly-teenaged daughter over the last year. She's often been reduced to tears by some of these methods, and with such a visceral emotional reaction, you just know they're working.
- Learn who their crushes are. If you can identify said crush by name, twitter handle, and astrological sign, then you are on the right track. Referring to someone as "the cute little guy with the bad haircut" is too open-ended, and really, that could be anyone on the Family Channel. Pro Tip: Be sure to get their full name correct. Accidentally referring to One Direction's "Harry Styles" as "Harry Ballsack" will earn you nothing but full-force eye roll and a door slam.
- Kids respond to music. It's a form of expression and communication, as well as being a safe method of venting frustration. Teens often organize themselves into cliques based primarily on musical genre, so why not get your kid some street cred by blasting "cool" music when you're in the pick-up line at middle school dismissal? Try something with a catchy beat: "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" or "King of the Road" are always crowd pleasers.
- All teens need a trusted advisor. Parents today are busier than ever and some kids are going to fall through the cracks, no matter how loved they are. This applies especially to girls around the time of their first menses. Why not organize a "field trip" to a local drugstore for your teen and her friends to talk to the pharmacist about hygiene options? Don't pick a large chain store. This calls for a personal touch. No; it's best if you call the hometown pharmacy owned by the guy with the milky eye. Sure, he's 102, and deaf in one ear, but he's been around since women used "hygiene belts," so he really knows his stuff.
- Most teens love fashion. Your own clothing choice is one way to show your kids that you're hip to their jive. Surprise your teen by showing up at one of their parties or gathering places in head to toe "Forever 21" clothing, or a Justin Bieber t-shirt and slouched jeans. If you really need to jump start your relationship, insist on matching outfits.
- Take an interest in their life. If your teen seems down, ask them to "cop a squat for a rap session." Some hesitancy is normal, and can be expected. Teens are not by nature communicative with adults so you may have to pursue answers. I've found that asking countless questions about even the smallest things is often a springboard for discussion. Here are some to get you started: Where did you go? Why? Who was there? What did you do? Why did you do that? Why do you think I'm asking why you did that? Why didn't you do something else? Why are you crying?
- Today's teen is nothing on the social scene without the latest technology. Ensure your child's popularity by allowing them and their friends unrestricted access to the family VCR and record player.
- If, after applying all these helpful tips your teen is still hesitant about opening up, remember that it's perfectly normal. It's hard for parents to be cut off and shut out after so many years of our children never wanting to leave our side.
If you are feeling particularly disconnected from your teen, get them into a situation where they cannot tune out, i.e.) the car. Then give them a long, detail-rich reiteration of their birth story. Be vivid - remember that the teenage brain responds best to images, so get graphic when describing their exit from your vagina.
*If you've got other tips, I'd love it if you'd share in the comments, because I've got 6 years left in the teen zone and I'm already researching cave real estate.
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