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Staying cool and connected with my teens

Staying cool and connected with my teens

Judah Racham headshot

Judah Racham

Programme Leader for Family Work - Judah is a BACP registered counsellor, and Parent-training Mentor, who joined Place2Be in 2021. He has over 7 years experience delivering counselling and therapeutic services for adults and children. Judah has been supporting parents and carers, delivering parent training and supervising parenting practitioners within local authorities and the NHS for over 17 years.

Our latest Parenting Smart topic, Connecting with my teenager, helps parents and carers to understand, connect with, and communicate with their teenagers. Place2Be's Programme Leader for Family Work, Judah, reflects on his personal experience and challenges when connecting with his teenage children.

I have three sons, two of whom are now teenagers and the youngest is fast approaching teenage years too! It feels a bit surreal for me to see how quickly that they have gone from small boys who couldn’t reach the sofa, to young men, with facial hair and deep voices!

As my boys have entered their teen years, I have noticed a change that has taken place over time in our relationship. I've felt this especially when it comes to the ways that we connect with each other. Judah

It feels like the days where they would spontaneously come to show me something, or ask me to join in a game, are no longer the normal ways for us to spend time together. I’ll admit that it has felt quite difficult at times to establish a different way of connecting with my sons. I think this is because it's taken a bit of time for me to really comprehend that these are not my little boys anymore.

What I have seen over time is that many of my interactions with my teenage sons will be during times when we are doing normal everyday things like:

  • walking to the shops together
  • driving to football training
  • when they come to the kitchen for something to eat (this one is happening more often nowadays).

In these moments, we tend to have a few minutes talking about something unrelated to what we are doing. But these are the moments that I now recognise are very important for staying connected.

Before my sons became teenagers, I always promoted the idea of side-by-side conversations with young people to help them feel more comfortable talking. This has become more of a reality for me now that my sons are becoming young men. I can really see how effective these conversations can be.

I've noticed that the change in what my boys are interested in means that if I want to connect, I must try to show an interest in what they like. A recent example of this has been about taste in music with one of my teen sons. He had started wearing his headphones while I was driving him to football training and so I asked him what he was listening to. He thought that I wouldn’t be interested in hearing his music, but my question led to a conversation about 'cool' music when I was growing up. In the end, we connected his music to the car, he played me songs he likes and told me about his favourite artists. Since then, I've noticed that he tells me about the latest songs he's heard, and invites me to listen to see what I think. I think it helps that he knows I used to be a musician, so maybe I get some street cred for that.

Now I know that to connect with my sons, I should step into their world and show I’m interested in what they do and who they are. The other thing I’ve realised is that I don’t always have to understand what they are into. I can still be somewhat cool by being a good listener in those rare times when they do have the urge to talk.

Judah is one of the experts behind our Parenting Smart website. From starting a new school and sibling rivalry, to sleep difficulties and meltdowns, the site is full of advice and tips to help parents of 4-11-year-olds support their children and manage their behaviour.

Look at Parenting Smart's resources

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