Dads: How to Reconnect with Your Teenage Son
A father has an important role in his family. He is a provider, protector, and a role model to his children. When he doesn’t fulfill his expected role, he breaks trust with his family. It doesn’t seem fair that one mistake can undo all the good effort that he built over the years, but this is how trust works. Sometimes a father feels like he’s losing control of his children as they grow older. He doesn’t believe he is ready to give up control, so he creates tension in the relationship. He does this by using forceful words and harsh criticism. Fathers often say things they regret in tense moments. Therefore, the first place to start with reconnecting with a teenage son is to regain trust.
I have never regretted saying, “I am sorry,” to my children, but I have regretted not. They always remember the times that I treated them harshly or disciplined them unfairly when I failed to tell them I’m sorry. On the other hand, they never remembered that I did something wrong when I sincerely apologized. Your son knows that you are human, but are you man enough to admit when you are wrong? Your son can trust you if he knows you love him and have placed his best interest on your heart.
Build loving communication between you and your son. This means, find topics of interest for both of you. Don’t force him to talk, but lead him into a conversation. If you have regular and casual conversations with him, it will be much easier to talk with him about sensitive topics when they come up.
We all want autonomy and the freedom to use it. Teenagers and parents often struggle for control. As a child matures they want to make their own decisions and do more things on their own. Giving your son freedom and then taking it away will ignite a potentially explosive situation. Give him freedom and if he blows it don’t take it away; empathize with Him, because you’ve been there. Be confident that your son has learned a valuable lesson. Even when he’s down on himself for getting into a fender bender with your car, give him some positive encouragement.
According to Erick Erickson, developmental psychologist, teenagers are developing a sense of identity. If they don’t figure out who they are, they will be confused about their identity. If a father drives his child away, because he doesn’t understand the search for identity, he will lose the respect of his son and his son will circumvent identifying with his father. What this means is, your son will do everything he can not to become like you.
The most important gift you can give your son is respect. Treat him as an equal and talk with him as a friend. Never say or do anything that you wouldn’t say or do to a friend. In time, your son will pay you back with the same kind of respect.
Don’t expect connection to happen quickly. If you do everything right, you will probably reconnect with your son, but it will take time. Meanwhile, enjoy the times you do have with him.