Three questions that can improve the relationship with your teen

Ask Julie Smith, Communication, Relationships

Three questions to improve the relationship with your teen

Dear Julie~

I know that teens who feel closer to their parents are more likely to come to them for advice when faced with tough decisions, and have better self-esteem, stand up to bullies, peer pressure, ALL THE GOOD THINGS! Besides showing that I love them, what can I do to make sure I’m making it easy for them to be close to me?

B, mom of 2

Dear B:

Congratulations!  You’ve already figured out something incredibly important: relationships aren’t one-sided!  It’s not just about what your teen does; your behavior and attitude plays an important role, too

No matter how close your relationship, there will always be little things — clothes on the floor, undone homework, dishes on the counter, a snarky comment here and there  — that may cause you to feel resentful toward your tween or teen. Those little irritations can deteriorate the relationship.

Recently, I read about Naikan (pronounced N Y E -kon), a practice of self-reflection rooted in Zen Buddhism developed in Japan in the 1940s. It’s an easy way to take responsibility for our role in relationships.

The power lies in the details – the good, the bad, and the ugly details – that make up the mosaic of any relationship. Your focus in Naikan is on the role YOU play, your actions, your choices – even what you feel you have received from the other person. The discovery from this practice can be pretty darn surprising – often having you see what you may have denied, minimized or how you may, ahem, be irritating others including your teen.

Give this practice a week or so, and see what you discover.

Here’s what you can do:  Set aside a few quiet moments at the end of each day and focus on your relationship with each of your children. Ask yourself three questions:

  1. What have I received from my child?
  2. What have I given to my child?
  3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused my child?

Make your answers specific. “He put away the dishes without being asked” is specific, “He did chores,” is not. “I was on my phone when she was asking for homework help,” is specific. “I need to be in the moment with her,” is not.

As you begin to look at your child and yourself through a different lens, you will start to see positive results. Yes, you’re still going to get a little bothered about the dishes on the counter, but reflecting on these questions will give you more perspective. These three little questions can be an incredibly powerful, easily accessible tool to help you build a much stronger relationship with your teen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this practice … or even your new year goals! Please share them in the comments below. And, if you know someone who wants to improve the relationship with the teen in their life, I’d be grateful if you passed this along.



PS. If you’re looking for more ways to improve your relationship – especially the levels of communication – with your teen, you may want to consider our parent guide, What to Do When your Teen Won’t Talk with You. Get all the deets here!