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100 Ways to Connect with Your Teens

By Debbie Ciavola

1. View adolescence as an adventure.
2. Respect their privacy.
3. Create family times around activities they enjoy.
4. Keep the delicate balance between holding on and letting go.
5. Understand the nature of the adolescent beast.
6. Take advantage of an unexpected connection.
7. Bite your tongue.
8. Don't take their chaotic behavior or mood swings personally.
9. Help them discover their spirituality.
10. Catch them doing something right and praise them.
11. Influence your teens' decision making, but don't say "I forbid."
12. Give privileges with age and responsibility.
13. Be their mentor and ally.
14. Guide them, not manage them.
15. Be clear about expectations and the consequences for not meeting those expectations.
16. Be your teens’ advocate.
17. Show true interest in their activities.
18. Expect miracles.
19. Be their parent. Teens do want rules, limits, and questions from you.
20. If your can't police, monitor or enforce a rule, don't have it.
21. Watch the little rules that poison relationships.
22. Spend time alone with your teens.
23. Ask open-ended questions such as "What are you learning in your history class?"
24. Encourage them to talk it out.
25. Actively supervise your teens’ exposure to media violence.
26. Acknowledge your teens’ fears, even if you do not agree with them.
27. Control your own behavior.
28. Talk about gangs and cliques.
29. Allow them safe and healthy outlets for their energy.
30. Use "I" statements rather than "you."
31. Enforce the important stuff, not the little stuff.
32. Seek to understand what your teens are really saying rather than reacting.
33. Share something personal that relates to your years as a teen.
34. Avoid giving unwanted advice.
35. Discuss personal matters on sex and fears.
36. Give your teens the impression that you trust them to do what is right.
37. Listen patiently to your teens’ reasons for wanting to do something.
38. Connect with your teens. Reflect on your adolescence.
39. Avoid lecturing.
40. Be someone they can believe in.
41. Make your home a place where teens want to hang out.
42. Talk less about the media and more about real heroes in our country.
43. Make a list of ten things you like about your teens and tell them.
44. Teach them how to be compassionate, empathetic and fair.
45. Show compassion to other teenagers.
46. Keep your face relaxed when they are telling you something you don't want to hear.
47. Talk about drinking and its consequences. Make your expectations known.
48. Help them establish their own autonomy while maintaining a loving relationship with you.
49. Support your teens’ interests and encourage them in their accomplishments.
50. Have regular family meetings in which the whole family talks things over and makes decisions together.
51. Ask what worries them most about their future.
52. Use natural and logical consequences, so discipline makes sense.
53. When they come home from an event ask, "How did you show good character?"
54. Teach respect for life in all forms.
55. Ask if they would like to go out to eat, run an errand, or go shopping with you.
56. Show up to watch them in their activities. Clap loudly.
57. Talk to their friends, learn their names and let them confide in you.
58. Work together in community activities.
59. Learn more about their world.
60. Believe they can make a difference and be a success.
61. Admit when you are wrong. Be able to say, "I'm sorry."
62. Hug them often.
63. Say, "I love you. I'm proud of you."
64. Show your teen respect.
65. Eat dinner together four to five days a week.
66. Never berate or belittle teens in front of their friends or peers.
67. Ask their opinions.
68. Give them room to breath to balance independence with dependence.
69. Set standards in clothing while still allowing them to express themselves.
70. Talk to your teen when there is not a problem.
71. Listen carefully to what is being said as well as what is not.
72. Have daily conversations.
73. Share your concerns rather than being the undercover cop.
74. Keep the discussions with your teens confidential unless they are involved with something dangerous.
75. Follow through on promises.
76. Allow your teens to take responsibility when you see them handling it well.
77. Forgive your teens when they make mistakes.
78. Negotiate new challenges.
79. Give your teens increasing autonomy (even if it kills you).
80. Accept all of your teens’ feelings, as long as they are respectfully conveyed.
81. Schedule times to talk about unappealing topics. Do not catch on the fly.
82. Focus on what your teens did right before you offer constructive criticism.
83. Make more statements rather than asking questions.
84. Talk to your teenagers rather than at them.
85. Don't over-react.
86. Accept that they will have moody behavior and teach them how to deal with it.
87. Allow them to make decisions about their own lives whenever possible.
88. Remember you are in the process of "people-making."
89. Express words of appreciation.
90. Listen with your heart.
91. Help them develop a sense of humor by telling funny stories of your day.
92. Enforce mutually acceptable behavior standards.
93. Listen to the whole story before you react.
94. Use natural and logical consequences when a boundary is broken.
95. Cook together or teach them how to cook.
96. Wait up until they come home.
97. Talk in the dark after the house is quiet and they are tired and relaxed.
98. Find out if they want you to fix it or just listen before you give advice.
99. Discover a shared passion together.
100. Remember, children become who you predict them to be.

© Debbie Ciavola.

Dr. Debbie Ciavola is author of 50 Great Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Connect with Your Teen. Email her at [email protected] if you would like to add another great tip or submit a parenting article. For free newsletters, articles, weekly tips and a message board, visit

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-- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist

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