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Have you ever thought about using creativity to improve your relationship with your teenager?
Sometimes, as parents we need to throw away the rule book, trust our instincts and just parent from the heart.
Believe it or not, even parenting teenagers can be fun if you allow yourself to loosen up a bit.
You may need to add some creativity to your communication efforts if any of the following are true.
- Your teen’s eyes roll to the back of his head when you start talking
- None of your efforts to get through to him are working so far
- There is no spark or enjoyment in your conversations
- You have become stuck in a routine and your son can predict your every move
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We all know that teenagers are constantly seeking novelty, always on the lookout for something new and interesting. This is part of the reason why social media with the constant flow of updates is so compelling to teenagers.
In his book Brainstorm: the power and purpose of the teenage brain, Daniel Siegel says . . .
Adults desire things to stay the same; adolescents are driven to create a new world. This is part of the source of what can become intense friction, sometimes destructively so, that can create pain in everyone, adolescent and adult alike.
We have to find a balance between routine structure and predictability and creative fun and mutual enjoyment.
So, I am giving you permission to change your approach, trust your instincts, be vulnerable and take some risks.
Here are 5 ways to add some creativity to your parenting approach and your communication.
1. Use humor to break down defenses, get your message across and connect with your son
I think it is a great idea to use humor in all its forms, whether that is jokes, sarcasm or playful teasing. This can serve several awesome purposes.
First of all it breaks down defenses. It is awfully hard for him to be angry when he is laughing. Even if you can get him to smirk just a little bit, you know that you are getting through. If your teen tends to get super defensive when you try to talk to him, try adding some humor to lighten things up and get him to lower some of his walls. This will make your message so much easier for him to hear as well.
Secondly humor helps you feel more connected. Victor Borge said that, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” There is just something special about crying with someone or laughing with them that brings you that much closer. Recognize that humor may be one of the best ways to connect with your son. When you both feel closer and the defenses are disarmed then true communication can happen.
Lastly humor relieves stress. There can be a lot of tense and intense moments parenting a teenage boy. Sometimes you need a release valve. Using humor is good for you and your teenager because studies have shown that laughter releases endorphins, which will literally melt away stress and tension.
I do recognize that this is a bit of an art form, because many teenagers become immune and even averse to their parents attempts at humor. I think you know what I’m talking about. You try to make a joke to lighten things up and your son just rolls his eyes and looks embarrassed to admit that he knows you. Now your mileage may vary with this one, but I would encourage you to use humor, sarcasm and playfulness when talking to your son.
2. Do something spontaneous or out of character to liven things up and get his attention
My next suggestion is on being spontaneous and taking some risks. This is all about trusting your own intuition and changing up your approach. You know that your teenager is seeking novelty and taking risks, how about you? What can you do to use your creativity and the element of surprise to communicate with your son?
I am pretty sure that your son would not expect you to sing his chore list to him, challenge him to a race to the car in the morning or dance a jig while you are trying to wake him up in the morning. Yes, I am talking about getting silly and doing things that are unusual.
How do you think your son would respond if you were to do something totally out of character? I would be willing to bet you money that you would get his attention. It is so easy for us to get stuck in our routines, our beliefs and our broken ways of relating and parenting.
Teens expect parents and most adults to be boring and predictable, but you don’t have to always meet those expectations. Maybe your son would even respond to a strategically placed cuss word. Whatever it may be, think about some ways that you can surprise him with something spontaneous.
3. Use current technology to connect and communicate
Your son is what is called a digital native, which means that he has grown up using technology and the internet and he is extremely comfortable with it. You may already be doing this, but it can be very effective to use that technology to communicate.
- Use a shared to-do list to keep track of things that he needs to accomplish
- Use a shared Google calendar so that he always knows what is happening
- Text him reminders, positive affirmations or other encouraging words
- Share a relevant or funny YouTube video to bring up an important topic to discuss
- Ask him to use the computer to write you a letter and share the things that are too hard to say in person
You can see that there are many opportunities to use technology to improve your relationship as well as the overall functioning of your family. You can come up with your own creative ideas on how to use various apps with your smartphones, tablets or computers.
Most teenagers are quite attached to their technology. It is up to us to find new ways to use these avenues to increase communication.
4. Consider taking a one down position to empower him and help him open up
Another way that you can use creativity to switch up the dynamic is by taking the one down position. Here is what I mean by this. Often, as parents we take the one up position of being the authority, the person who sets and enforces the rules.
In other words, you do what I say because I am your parent. End of story. This, of course can create a lot of pushback from your teenager. You can choose to sometimes take a one down position and empower your son in the process.
You could say, “If you were the parent and I was the teenager how would you handle this situation?” Give him a sense of responsibility to think through the problem from a different perspective.
You could use the phrase “I could be totally wrong about this” or “Tell if I am way off base with this . . .” By suggesting that you may be wrong or may not be seeing things accurately you set things up for him to be more open to your words. You are not saying I have the answer and the final word on this, but rather showing him that his opinion and perspective really do matter.
This may be a change in the way that you normally relate, but it could make a big difference.
5. Incorporate some type of creative expression in trying a new approach
You can also use art, music or any form of creative expression to get your message across. I would encourage you to think big and think outside of the box.
You could write a song or a poem to express to your thoughts and feelings to your son. You could create a family art project that everyone can add to, what does it mean to be a part of this family or what are our family strengths.
You could communicate with him through beach art, sky writing or photography. You could also share a journal that you pass back and forth, whether it is in a digital form or with paper. You could pick out a song together that he can play every morning that will motivate him to get out of bed and get moving.
There are so many creative possibilities that you are only limited by your imagination.
Whether or not you see yourself as a creative person you can apply some of these ideas to your parenting. You can always choose to change up your approach, see what works or doesn’t work and then adapt from there.
Try using humor, spontaneity, technology or creative expression to add a spark of joy to your relationship with your son.