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By: Mark Merrill

The teen years can be a bumpy ride. It’s important that your teen is given the room and encouragement to become their own person, but what do you do when you sense that they are drifting or pulling away in an unhealthy manner?

First, take a moment to consider that it may not just be all about them; here are 5 Ways Parents Frustrate Their Teens. But, whatever the cause, perhaps the rolled eyes, slammed doors, grumpy silences, and secrecy about their friends and activities have you thinking, “We have a problem!” If so, here are nine things to help ensure you maintain contact as they move into their own orbit.

1. Treat them as a young man or young woman.

They may not be at a stage where you can consider them to be fully-functioning adults, free to make all their own decisions, but they want you to acknowledge that they are not little children anymore. That means being less directive about everything, and moving more into a coaching role. Instead of commands, give choices.

2. Listen more.

Letting go of the reins bit by bit means having fewer answers and more questions. Ask them why they are feeling frustrated about this, how they think they should handle that, and why they believe you should agree to those things. Inquire gently; this should be a conversation, not an interrogation! For more on this, consider these 7 Cs for Communicating With Teens.

3. Bite your lip.

Even if you disagree with what they are saying, you don’t need to tell them so every time. That will just shut them down. Give them permission to share without them feeling that they are going to be automatically corrected or challenged. Try to understand where they are coming from. Sometimes when my kids were teens and I’d ask them about something, when they’d tell me I would just say, “Okay, thanks for sharing,” and leave it at that without making a big deal out of it. If they tell you something that is really worrisome, you may want to come back to it a bit later once you’ve gathered your wits. Here are some ideas on How to React When Your Teen Shocks You.

4. Remind them you’re their biggest fan.

Susan and I would tell our children time and again, “Other than God, no one loves you more than we do, and no one has your best interests at heart more than we do.” Whether it’s a hug as they pass in the hall or a lunchbox or sports bag note, reminding your kids that you’re always for them is a big deal.

5. Be vulnerable.

As your teen gets older, share with them, as appropriate, difficulties you had or mistakes you made at their age. This may very well help you and your teen to better identify with one another. It may also encourage your teen to open up more.

6. Keep it short.

Remember that your teens live in the Twitter world, where conversations are limited to 140-character exchanges. Avoid the temptation to lecture and offer a sound bite instead. They are more likely to remember a brief comment than a long lecture.

7. Say “I was wrong, please forgive me.”

Part of letting your teen see more of you means being ready to admit when you are wrong. Be quick to apologize when you realize you have been wrong; asking forgiveness will go a long way toward keeping your teen’s heart soft toward you. [Tweet This]

8. Be available to your teen when they need or want you.

Be there to do things with and for your teen. And do it on their schedule. I remember one time our 17-year-old son came home at midnight while I was still awake and asked if I wanted to go get a hamburger. Eating that late was not on my wish list, but I readily agreed, as I knew it would give us some valuable hang-out time together.

9. Enter their world.

As they grow, your teen may want to try new things and those things may not be what you are interested in. Encourage them in what they want to do. For example, instead of trying to get them to play a certain sport just because you did, encourage them in the sport they are interested in. Look for opportunities to use this discovery process as a way to build bridges.