Searching for commonalities among teenagers can be quite a challenge. It’s been years since our hormones were flying around and we’ve been long over the swooning, posturing, flirting, and experimenting that happens at this age. Our teens are in a world of opportunity and excitement with no consequence. Because the frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until around the age of 25, it is nearly impossible for them to consider the impact on their future that one decision can make. This can drive us parents crazy! Why do they like that person? Why do they love and worship that music? Death metal!?
To find things in common with your teenager doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, gaining rapport is the first step. Gaining rapport is the way into their world where you can begin to see what they value and why. Then you can find things commonalities of your own. Discovering things in common can be a fun adventure. We’re all human after all –we all eat, use the bathroom, have or want sex, love to get things (hunter gather instinct), and have awesome experiences of great connection. Of course, the degree to which these things are desired and achieved vary from generation to generation, but you’re human. Your child is human. You’ve got more in common than you think.
Talking about rapport
Basic rapport building can be done by mirroring them physically and in speech, identifying their model of the world, using their language. Imagine a party where everyone is asked to wear purple and you show up wearing orange. You are going to stick out like a sore thumb. Your child is at the party wearing purple, you are orange. Getting into rapport with your teenager is all about wearing as much purple as possible when you are around him or her. You can still be you, just wear purple.
When people are in great rapport their physical gestures and body positioning is the same though unnoticed. It is not conscious behavior, but yours can be. Crossing legs like your teenager while lounging in the living room or at a coffee shop is one way to be in immediate rapport. Taking a sip of your drink at the same time, or laughing the same way is a sign of great rapport. Make sure it is unnoticed. Also, your teenager has language patterns and a model of the world that is being built. When you begin to use their language and model of the world (seen by their use of language) you can reflect it back to them and gain rapport that way.
After gaining and maintaining rapport by using the techniques above (“wearing purple”) you may find yourself dropping any judgment or preconceptions about their life and allowing freedom to emerge. You are then engaging your child in personal activities and exploring new possibilities just for fun.
Dropping the judgment or control
When a teen witnesses his or her parent acting without judgment and choosing to let go of control, they are more inclined to share from the heart and be more courageous in bringing up difficult topics of interest. When you drop judgment and stop trying to control your teens likes and dislikes, you can then position yourself as teachable and open to having fun with them! Hint: Their interests are often right in front of you. One good place to start is to ask yourself, have I been rejecting or resisting any of my child’s area of interests? Let go of control and drop the judgment.
Engage In Activities Together
A mature relationship has a give and take pattern to it. It’s a sign of maturity when one person can take interest in another’s activity even though they may not like it or enjoy it as much as the other person. The concept here is the priority of enjoyment. Considering your teen as primary, or first, then the activity secondary . You and your teen can enjoy and share an experience together that you may like more followed by an activity they enjoy more or the other way around. But the experience itself serves as the commonality.
Explore new things
The world of the teenage years is all about exploring self-expression and having adventures so that they can figure out what they like. Exploring new activities together that neither you nor your teen have ever done before can be inspiring and bring you closer together. You never know what you may discover by taking an exercise class together or an art class.
After exploring the many ways to develop rapport so that you can find things in common with your teen, you may find it changing all over again. Remember their journey of coming into their own personal expression is theirs and will always be forever changing. Expressing interest as well as inviting them to see what you are up to is like wearing purple to their party and extending an invitation to your party too. Keep trying new things, if there’s a time to get creative and reinvent yourself it’s now. Have fun.