During adolescence, young people learn how to form safe and healthy relationships with friends, parents, teachers and romantic partners. Both boys and girls often try on different identities and roles during this time, and relationships contribute to their development. Peers, in particular, play a big role in identity formation, but relationships with caring adults – including parents, mentors or coaches – are also important for adolescent development.
Connection with family
Families today can take many forms. Regardless of family form, a strong sense of bonding to family has been identified as a factor leading to better emotional development, school success and less involvement in high-risk activities, including drug abuse. Here are 10 simple ways to connect to your teen:
- 1. Share his or her interest
- 2. Do something together
- 3. Skip the lecture
- 4. Keep it simple
- 5. Give him or her breathing room
- 6. Have family meals
- 7. Chat while working together
- 8. Connect online
- 9. Create a ritual
- 10. Talk about your youth
Connection with peers
The nature of adolescents’ involvement with peer groups changes over the course of adolescence. Adolescents need adults who can help them withstand peer pressure and find safe and productive peer groups.
How does social media fit in with connectedness? You’d think as much as our kids are “plugged in” they would be more connected, right? New research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic) – and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. It is clear that social interaction matters to our kids (and most adults). When technology leads to increased face-to-face interaction, it leads to positive connectedness. However, if technology is the primary means of social connection, it can be isolating and lead to poor social skills that may inhibit future involvement.
Connection at school
Students who feel connected to their school are also more likely to have better academic achievement, better attendance and stay in school longer. How is a strong connection to school developed? Many experts agree that developing a strong connection to school is built on healthy relationships…with parents, teachers, peers and others.
School connectedness provides a protective factor for teens. Research has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risky behaviors. Parents who have the expectation that their teen will be involved, will have a teen who is more likely to choose to be involved. It’s important to note that teens respond better when given the freedom to choose an activity. This can be coupled with the understanding that they will commit to that activity for a reasonable amount of time. The level of involvement in activities, clubs or organizations should be balanced with other demands in the teen’s life (homework, family, job, church, etc.).