I am privileged to have conversations with teenagers almost every day. We talk about everything from pop culture to relationships. Oftentimes, the relationship conversation goes far beyond their crushes, boyfriends, and girlfriends, and extends to family. Sometimes, things are great at home, and students are eager to talk. Other times, they would much rather talk about anything but their families. Either way, in my attempt to get to know them better, family will eventually be mentioned, because I believe that there are very few aspects of life that influence us like family.
I’m particularly reminded of a small group I was leading that was comprised of both boys and girls. I intentionally grouped the students together who were known to have the worst behavior. I was determined to get this group to talk. I wanted to know what makes each individual student act out.
I didn’t even have to mention family. One girl began to open up almost immediately. “My problem is my mom. Things are fine until she gets a new boyfriend. As soon as she starts dating, she gives the boyfriend all of her attention.”
While she was talking, another student sarcastically chimed in. “Well, I technically have both of my parents at home. I mean, dad is always working, and mom is always on social media. They don’t really show me any attention but, at least they’re there, right?”
I found the common ground between both students. I asked, “Do you recognize that both of you just indirectly said that you want more attention from your parents? Could that be the reason you act out?”
The girl said that not having her mom’s attention is certainly not helping her behavior. The boy admitted that when he gets in trouble, his parents are forced to focus on him, even if only for a moment. Their comments led me to the advice that I’d like to share with our readers.
Show your teens that they’re a priority.
Whether it’s a dating relationship, job responsibilities, or spending too much time on social media, the lack of quality time together builds a wall between you and your teenager. As often as possible, do away with outside distractions, and give your teenager your undivided attention. You’ll be amazed at how showing your child that he/she is your priority will positively shape the way they respond to life.
Don’t be afraid to pry (at least a little).
Those same students said that their parents have no clue what they post on social media. They don’t even know who their best friends are. The older your children get, the more they desire their privacy and independence. Many may never admit it, but they appreciate you showing signs that you desire to know them on an intimate level. They even crave that attention. Asking your teens questions that show them your interest in their personal space is comforting, even if they’re “too cool” to admit it.