Dads and teenagers: changing relationships, new connections
You’ll spend less time with your child as they get older and gain more independence. But a strong relationship with you is still important to your teenage child. Your love and support are key to your teenage child’s health and wellbeing, and you’ve got a big part to play in guiding your child’s path to adulthood.
The key is to keep building your relationship by being around and being involved. And the great news is that changes in your relationship with your teenage child can offer new opportunities for connecting.
For example, you and your child might find yourselves sharing leisure activities that you both enjoy, like watching movies, playing sport or exercising, cooking, taking photos and so on. Teenagers might also turn to you for help when they’re deciding on careers, learning to drive or managing money.
Strong relationships for dads and teenagers: 10 tips
Here are some ways to stay involved in your child’s life as a dad:
- Just be there. Teenagers are likely to have fewer behaviour problems if parents are around. You don’t have to be with your child all the time – it might just be that you’re in the house when your child is in their bedroom. And it’s OK if you and your child don’t live together full time – your child will benefit just from knowing that you’re there if they need you.
- Try to relax sometimes on rules. Working out what you can give way on can help you reduce and manage conflict with your child. If you do have a fight, see if you can work out something positive that will help you both feel better.
- Negotiate and compromise. Using negotiation skills and compromising when you can will help you have a positive relationship with your child. This is also a good way of modelling more grown-up ways of communicating.
- Spend time connecting with your child. It won’t be long before your child is grown up, so take whatever chances you can to hang out. Sometimes you can make the most of everyday moments to connect, like when you’re driving your child to sports practice or music lessons. And sometimes you can plan time together – for example, making a date to go for a milkshake after sport or lessons. If you don’t live with your child all the time, you could try staying in touch with daily text messages – even if your child doesn’t always reply!
- Tell your child stories. Children are never too old for a story. It can be about famous explorers, your own travel stories, tales of your life before you met your partner, great moments in sport, or anything else that’ll catch your child’s interest.
- Show your child how much you love them. Teenagers are never too old for a hug, even if they roll their eyes and say, ‘You’re so embarrassing, Dad!’ If physical affection isn’t your thing, you can show love by high-fiving your child or ruffling their hair. Doing everyday things for your child is another way to show love – for example, turning up to sport every weekend, or picking up your child from parties.
- Be active. Go for a bike ride, play basketball or even just walk to the shops together. If your child isn’t so much into sport, try a board game or the quiz in the Saturday paper.
- Share a hobby. It can be easy to think teenagers are more interested in social media or video games than hobbies. You might need to try a few different things before you find something you both like, but a shared hobby – like cooking, yoga or fixing bikes – can be a great way to have fun and build your relationship.
- Let your child be the expert. Get your child to show you how to do something that you know less about than your child does, even if it’s the latest video game. This is a great way for teenagers to build confidence and mentoring skills.
- Look for ways to encourage your child’s independence and shift responsibility to your child. For example, there might be a sports club in your area that your child could get involved in as a junior coach. A part-time job could help your child develop skills and earn some money. Learning to drive safely and responsibly could boost your child's confidence and ability to get around independently.