Parents of teenagers know all too well how difficult it can be to feel ‘connected’ to their kids at times. But, according to a recent study, teens who feel understood and connected with their parents and teachers, may actually grow up to be healthier adults.
Joe Austerman, D.O., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the study, but said teen years are when kids learn, through trial and error, how to become an adult.
“Having strong, safe bonds where you can learn and practice, and learn these skills, confers a better benefit to you later on in life, because you’ve learned skills to interact with others, so you’re more effective at it,” he said.
Dr. Austerman said it’s important for teens to have a safe space where they can ‘mess up’ and learn to socialize. When they don’t have these opportunities, the skills are not created, and it can become a struggle for them later on in life.
He said being connected and feeling understood, or feeling like you’re being ‘heard’ is important for all of us, but especially for teens who are creating their identity and may be unsure of who they are. Teens need people who will provide a good sounding board, but also just to be there for them.
Even though teen years are a time when kids can feel very disconnected from parents, Dr. Austerman said it’s important for parents to continue to try to connect with their teens.
“Parents always feel as if their teens are growing farther away from them, that they’re permanently losing these bonds – but being there and consistently understanding and trying to connect with them will pay off when they’re adults,” he said.
The study showed teens who had better connections with family and at school, had as much as 66 percent lower odds of engaging in health-risk behaviors and experiences in adulthood.
“It is important to continue to try to connect with your teenagers,” said Dr. Austerman. “Even when they don’t seem like they want it, they need it. And, you don’t need to force it, but continue to offer opportunities for them to connect with you.”
Complete results of the study can be found in Pediatrics.
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