Parents are often at a loss when it comes to talking with their teens. Whether they fear a blank stare or having to deal with a disrespectful response, parents often imagine that they will not be able to connect with their child.
However, it is critical that parents stay involved in open conversation with their teens as they progress through adolescence. Research has shown that parents are the single biggest factor that influences whether a teen will engage in substance use during adolescence.
To Keep Open Conversation With Your Teen, Get Creative
In order to keep that open conversation and a close relationship going, parents have to become creative. They may have to adopt some conversation techniques that are more comfortable for their teen, such as talking while engaging in a shared activity like miniature golf or bowling.
For some parents, keeping close contact with a teen may require venturing even further into their teen’s comfort zone. A recent study highlighted the usefulness of social networking in keeping conversation rolling with teens.
Researchers at Brigham Young University in the department of human development examined the correlation between parents who are in contact with teens on social media and who also enjoy a close relationship with their teen in person.
Contact Via Social Media Makes It Easier For Important Face To Face Communication
The findings could have implications for parents preventing substance use. Parents who keep in close contact with their teens via social media may also have an easier time entering into regular conversations about major life decisions.
Led by Drs. Sarah Coyne and Laura Padilla-Walker, the study found that parents who are connected online to their parents also feel closer to them when it comes to their in-person relationships. The study included approximately 500 families and found that online interactions translated to higher levels of prosocial behavior in the teens, which means that they exhibit traits like generosity and kindness.
Half of the teen participants in the study reported that they were engaged in social media interactions with their parents. Approximately 16 percent reported that they had daily interactions with their parents through social media.
The study authors say that parents who engage in social media interactions with their kids, by following them on Twitter or becoming friends on Facebook, can give the message that they are interested in their kids’ lives. By liking a posted photo or responding to a comment now and then on Facebook, they communicate that they are engaged in what’s important to their kids.
Parent’s Need To Make Sure To Not Overstep Social Media Bounds
There are pitfalls of this method of strengthening parent-child relationships, of course. Parents should be careful not to overstep the bounds of social media etiquette. For instance, commenting on every status their child posts or taking to social media to spread embarrassing childhood anecdotes will certainly lead to a “de-friending” by their child.
However, in the study, children and parents repeatedly reported closer relationships when they were also connected over social media. While this cause-and-effect could go either direction, the authors of the study believe that the factors are bi-directional.
Instead of being a type of magic bean for the parent-child relationship, social media is, instead, a small part of the puzzle. Parents can use social media to augment the other practices they have in place to strengthen their relationship with their child and provide opportunities for conversation.
Additional Ways To Strengthen Ties With Your Teen To Prevent Substance Use
In addition to interacting over social media, parents can provide regular opportunities for family meals, engage their child in conversation over an activity that the child enjoys, and demonstrate interest in both academic and extracurricular requirements and goals.
All of these behaviors can work together so that talking over important decisions, such as drug and alcohol use, flow naturally from the wealth of conversation that happens on a daily basis.
The authors of the study note that in order to really be involved with the teens growing up now, parents have to resist being put off by technology. They need to know where their kids are spending their time, what is important to them, and hop into the mix to see what is actually going on in their child’s world.