If you are trying to reconnect with your teen but nothing seems to be working in your favor, then it’s time for you to use the “three E’s”.
It seems to happen with a blink of an eye. The daughter who used to beg you to play Barbies with her now wants nothing to do with you. Or, the son who used to come greet you at the door now stays stationed in front of his video game when you get home from work. Car rides used to contain non-stop chatter, now it’s difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation. You may ask yourself, “What caused our relationship to change?”.
It’s not uncommon for parent/teen relationships to begin to shift during the adolescent and teen years. As kids are given more independence, begin hanging out more with their friends and develop their own interests, there become fewer and different types of interactions with parents. During this phase, it’s common for teens to feel less understood and parents to feel less respected. Many parents try to find ways to reconnect with their teens but have no luck in doing so.
The framework that I use in my therapy practice and have detailed in The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying book is one that I recommend to parents who would like to form a stronger connection with their teen. I call it The Three E’s (Empathy, Empowerment, and Engagement). While this framework helps teens who are struggling with bullying and other issues, it’s also very effective in helping parents and teens reconnect.
Here Are The 3 E’s That Will Help You Reconnect With Your Teen
The foundation of the Three E’s is always empathy, which is understanding your teen’s perspective from her viewpoint. This may seem difficult to do if your teen appears to like completely different things than you or does not seem to be the same type of teen that you were.
If you don’t understand your teen’s viewpoint, it’s important to ask open-ended questions. For example, you might ask, “I noticed that you haven’t mentioned Joyce recently. Did something happen that you’d like to talk about?” Asking questions (not assuming) is an important element of empathy.
Once you understand your teen’s perspective from his viewpoint, you can empower your child to share his thoughts and opinions, as well as develop game plans to resolve issues such as bullying, friendship troubles, and low self-esteem.
If there is an issue that your teen is facing, it can be helpful to have your teen practice proposed steps for resolution by role-playing with you.
I’ve had parents tell me, “I try to engage with my teen, but she doesn’t want to talk to me.” Or, “All I get from my teen is an attitude and one-word responses.”
What often happens after these scenarios is that parents begin to give up. They go from trying to engage in no engagement at all – causing more tension and less communication.
Some teenagers appear too busy or preoccupied to sit down for a conversation. I suggest that you participate in an activity with your teen that he enjoys, or at least drive your teen to and from activities with minimal distractions. The best way to engage with your teen is to meet him where he’s at. Then, while you are engaged in the activity, it may feel less threatening to check-in and ask an open-ended question such as, “What do you like best about school this year?”
Engagement is listed last in the Three E’s because it’s most effective when it’s used along with Empathy and Empowerment. You’ll engage differently if you empathize with your child. And, your teen will respond in a more positive manner if you’ve empowered her to share her thoughts and opinions.