How to Build a Strong Bond with Your Teen
It's important to have a strong bond with your child, especially during adolescence, because it helps reduce his or her chance of engaging in risky behavior. Even though your child might be pulling away, itching for more independence, deep down he wants to be involved in the family
and know that you still love and care for him. Here are ways to build and maintain a strong bond with your teen.
As kids get older and their desire for independence grows, parents often step back to give them space – but your kids still need to know you love and care for them, no matter what is going on in their lives. But, if you're parenting teenagers, research shows that no matter what your kids may say or how they may act, they want to stay involved with their families. “Bonding is important throughout the life course and particularly important during adolescence,” says
Richard Catalano, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Social Development Research Group at
the University of Washington's School of Social Work and co-creator of the Staying Connected
with Your Teen “We know that kids who are bonded to parents who hold healthy beliefs and
clear standards — particularly about drug use or alcohol use — are much less likely to get
involved in any kind of problem behavior.” Bonding helps reduce the chance that your kids will
engage in risky sexual activity or crime, try drugs or alcohol, or drop out of school.
According to Catalano, there are three main building blocks you can put into play when
parenting teenagers to encourage a strong relationship: provide opportunities for meaningful
involvement, teach your kids the skills they need to be actively involved, and offer recognition
for their efforts.
1. Provide Teens with Opportunities: Household chores are a great way to get younger
kids involved with daily family life. But when parenting teenagers, you should
understand that teens require a higher level of involvement and responsibility. They need
the chance to help with family decision-making. It can be as simple as asking your teen,
Where do you think we should go on our next family vacation? Or, if you're buying a
new electronic ask your teenager to help research the latest models.
2. Teach Them Skills: Set your teen up for success. If you give him new responsibilities
around the house, teach him how to do the necessary task. If you want him to help you
make a decision about a new purchase or family event, give him the criteria she needs to
make an informed opinion. (For example, if she's going to research a new cell phone for
you tell her what features you’re looking for and ask her to show you how to use it.) And
if he's pushing for the chance to buy his own clothes? Teach him how to budget for what
he needs to buy. “You have to give teens the scaffolding so that they'll have the skills for
that particular decision-making involvement,” says Catalano. When parenting teenagers,
they aren’t the only ones with lessons to learn.
3. Recognize Their Efforts: After your teen finishes a task, or at least shows that he really
tried, make sure you recognize his effort. “That recognition really provides the
motivation for kids to continue,” says Catalano. But, he adds, “Recognition is a tricky
wicket. Make the recognition fit the child.” Don't try to push hugs on a teen who blanches
at physical affection. Instead, give him a verbal high five.
When parenting teenagers, you should look at every situation as a learning opportunity. Giving
them the tools to make good decisions within a family environment will help them make good
decisions in all aspects of their lives.
Kids really want to have discussions on important issues with their parents
says Richard Catalano, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington's School of Social Work. “The overwhelming majority of kids say they would rather talk to their parents than their friends. Even kids who are involved in alcohol and other drugs wish they would be having those conversations with their parents”.