Bonding with a Teenager - Papers & Essays



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Bonding with a Teenager


Good bonding happens when parents and children spend time together doing something they both enjoy. When the teenager sees that his ideas are of interest to his/her parents or when he/she is given a chance to demonstrate a skill which the parent appreciates, they connect. When parents and teenagers share emotional experiences, even suffering, they feel close. If parents withhold judgment the teenager feels freer to communicate. It appeared that teenagers bond more easily with a parent of the same sex. There are positive and lasting benefits from solid parent-teen bonding. This relationship is the foundation for youth to have a happy and healthy future.

What has been your experience?
Recently I watched a TV sitcom. Dad, Mom and two teenagers were eating dinner. "How was school?" Mom asked. Neither teen answered. Mom tried another question. "Do you have a ball game tonight?" The boy nodded. "And you?" she said to her daughter. "No. Have to phone Betty." "What was your day like?" the woman asked her husband. "Okay," he said. The story was interrupted with canned laughter. It was supposed to be funny that everyone would rather eat and get back to his or her own interest, but it wasn't funny to me. The story depicted a scene very familiar in many families. Lack of communication.

Parents begin to feel that they are losing their children when they reach the teen years. They don't know what their children are thinking or what they connect to on the internet. They can't understand their music, why they insist on wearing far-out clothing or hanging out with kids who are doing dangerous things.

It wasn't very different at our house when my son and daughter were teenagers. There were few moments when we laughed together and they each wanted to talk about their friends and activities. Those times made me feel connected. Adults feel a valued bond when we share feelings and thoughts, and the same thing happens with our children. With my daughter the few moments of good connection happened when we went shopping together to buy my clothing. I'd stay in the dressing room, and she'd bring me things to try on. Her taste was better than mine, and I trusted her judgment. Our son was the macho type. We'd connect when I let him chauffeur me somewhere in our car. He'd sit up straight, and when I said, "How is school?" I'd get a long rendition about the dumb assignment for history or how successful he was in wood-working class.

I asked some friends about bonding in their families. Derek said he loved watching his dad coach a basketball game. Afterwards they'd drink a pop and talk. Bianca, Karen's daughter, reached out to bond with Karen when Bianca had a serious health concern, then they talked about Bianca's worries and Bianca asked for advice. John and his dad played their musical instruments together. Both loved music. Vicky said her son was too much like her. They each had to have the last word, and they never felt close until she learned to listen. Zoe grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. Children and parents had jobs. Teenagers didn't expect to be close to their parents. John Mark said that both of his parents worked, but one time they took five days off and went on a vacation. He remembers these days as the happiest time in his childhood since the family did things together. As I tallied these and other replies it seemed that teens tended to connect best with the parent of the same sex. Perhaps being of the same gender, they already had more in common.

Helium ( is an internet site where people describe their experiences, including those with children. One woman wrote that she thought she was close to her daughter because, when the daughter's friends were around, she listened and told them what to do. However, one day the daughter got angry and told her to stay out of the conversation and let them learn to solve their own problems. In another case, a woman wrote that she thought it was good to tell her daughter the problems she was having. They would be pals and the daughter would learn to escape such problems. The daughter started to avoid her mother and finally said that she didn't want to solve her mother's adult problems. She felt she was being asked to be a mother to her own mother. The woman said she leaned that she shouldn't be a pal; she should be the mother.

Teenagers say their parents don't have time to really listen. Parents form judgments quickly and don't try to see the youth's point of view. Some youths struggle when their parents control them though a guilt-trip. Teenagers say they don't talk to their parents because the parents will be disappointed or angry when they express their ideals and dreams. Second generation immigrant teenagers say their parents don't know the words for communication in English, and they don't know their parent's language. Even with the same spoken language, teens speak using new slang and feel that their parent's words and ideals are outdated.

Child Trends, Washington, D.C. ( - Research Areas-Parenting-Research Briefs) published a review article describing the results of researchers Moore, Guzman, Hair, Lippman and Garrett (Research publication #2004-25). Dec. 2004, titled "Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions: Far More Positive Than Not." The conclusions are as follows: Teenagers with good bonding tend to have better academic outcomes. They are less likely to have problem behaviours. More often they have a sense of good mental, emotional and social well-being. These positive attributes extend into adulthood. "Studies confirm that teenagers still want and appreciate effective parenting. The results mirror similar findings in industrial countries elsewhere in the world."