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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Edge, LPC

In Families With Teens, Relationships Are Key: How Parents Can Improve Relationships with Their Teen

Many families in my practice struggle to balance screen use. Parents feel overwhelmed managing teen’s screen time, teens push boundaries with screen use, and parents have to balance work, play, and life with their devices.

A family I worked with came to me struggling with screen time for their kids. They have an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old who only want to play video games. The kids are up and down with managing their school work and don’t want to spend time doing anything besides time on devices. The kids are smart and grasp new concepts quickly. However, they find school boring and are not challenged.

Parents say they argue with their teens a lot due to issues around gaming. The parents set up limits, use Screen Time on their phones, and take away devices when needed. However, no matter what parents do, their kids get around the boundaries. They stay up late gaming which makes it a nightmare to get them ready for school in the mornings. The teens don’t focus in class because they are exhausted, resulting in falling behind in school. And relationships in the home stays tense due to grounding and loss of privileges.

The parents are burned out. They’ve read every parenting book out there, taken away privileges, and enforced consequences. But their teens still break rules and game as much as possible.

How do parents respond to challenges around managing screen time with their teens?

What To Do?

From my experience working with families around problematic screen use, the first thing I recommend is to give yourself grace. Take a deep breath and know you are the best person in the entire world to parent your teen. No one else knows them as well as you do. No one is able to speak truth and positively impact them as well as you. Give yourself a break and know you have not failed as a parent if your teen is not making healthy choices.

The second thing I would do is focus on the relationship. It’s natural for us parents to focus on discipline and enforcing rules when our kids breaks boundaries. Kids of all ages need parents to keep and enforce boundaries. Kids, no matter the age, also need positive, safe relationships with their parents. Even though it’s natural for teens to rebel against parents, it’s vital they have a positive relationship with their parents to fall back on.

Improving the relationship with your teen will do several things. One, it will help your teen make healthier choices. When our kids have a positive relationship with us, they are more likely to listen to and follow our guidance. When they see we are on their side, they can trust us and know we really do have their best interest at heart.

Another reason to improve your relationship with your teen is to help your teen improve their self-confidence. When they feel safe and secure in their relationship with you, they feel they can take on any challenge. They feel they can handle anything life throughs their way because they have the unconditional support, love, and care from you. A good attachment, or positive relationship, with your teen can help them have the space to problem-solve and work through challenges.

Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Your Teen

Focus on the Positives

It’s natural for parents to focus on areas of improvement in our teens. We want the best for our kids and if we see something that’s not great, we want to address it. While we do need to help push our kids to be the best version of themselves, we also need to improve our relationship with them. If we are only bringing up areas of improvement with our teens, they will think nothing they do is good enough. They will have low self-esteem and struggle to find value in their work.

Our culture promotes results. It’s natural for parents to focus on goals for our teens like getting into a good collage, getting a good job, or finding a spouse. Encourage and guide your teen for those things, but continue to show love, respect, and kindness if they don’t do those things. Recognize and praise great results, but also recognize the work and effort made even if the results are not great. That’s unconditional love and it can be very difficult to do.

Focus on the positives you see with your teen. Recognize the little wins you see in them like when they take out the trash without an eye roll or show kindness to their sibling. Focus on the positives in their hobbies and interests. If your teen plays Call of Duty, point out the positives of what they are doing like problem-solving, strategizing, working towards a goal, and working with a team.

For every negative interaction like an argument or fight, try to have at least five positive interactions. Doing this will help improve your relationship with your teen.

Give Your Teen Space to Choose

Parents can have a hard time letting their teen make their own choices. We might feel they need us to give them answers and tell them what to do. If we don’t tell them, they will probably pick the wrong thing, right? When we tell our teen what to do, they most likely will do the opposite. Teens want to be independent and make their own choices. When possible, give your teen space to make choices for themselves.

Intervene if your teen is putting themselves or others in danger. But outside of that, empower your teen to make and stand by their choices. Help them think through problems rather than solving it for them. Be a supportive listener and guide them towards healthy choices. Kids and children need boundaries from parents. Teens need boundaries too, they also need to start working on creating healthy boundaries for themselves. When they learn how to self-regulate and make healthy choices for themselves, they are one huge step closer to becoming a healthy, independent adult.

When we give our teens space to make their own decisions, we communicate trust. Our relationship with our teens will improve when we give them space to make their own choices.

Disengage From Power Struggles

When your teenager refuses do follow a rule you’ve set, rather than yelling or arguing with them, stay calm and enforce a consequence. If you need your teen to clean their room, you could say they will not be able to go to play video games until their room is clean. If they refuse to go to bed, allow them to get themselves up in the morning without prompting from you. If they are late for school, they have to suffer the consequences of detention or a school penalty. Or they can’t hang out with their friends on Friday night.

We don’t have to get into a power struggle with our teens. Rather than making them do something, we can focus on implementing consequences for their actions. They can make a bad choice, but there will be consequences. This gives parents space to focus on relationship building with our kids rather than making them do certain behaviors. Because ultimately, we really can’t make our teens do anything. We can guide, teach, and correct. What they do after that is on them.

Do Fun Activities Together

Doing fun activities together improves relationships. We can’t go on vacation to the beach every weekend but we can do fun activities together as a family? Here is a list of a few things activities you and your family/teenager could enjoy together.

There are many more activities but these are a few that could help bring you and your teenager closer together. Doing activities together helps improve relationships. If you can find something they will enjoy, something they can bring a friend to, they are more likely going to open up and connect with you. And the better the relationship, the healthier everyone will be.


When families work to improve their relationships in their home, lives are changed. Teen’s will positively impact relationships around them. Parents can start to trust their teen more and feel confident in their future. Managing screen use in a family is a more doable task when we are focusing on improving relationships with each other.

If you would like help improving your relationship with your family, reach out to us at

Check out our parenting resources and upcoming workshops for parents!


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