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The A to Z's of Teenagers: A 'Resolutionary' New Year!

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Ah, January. The month of grand resolutions and post-holiday blahs. Lizzie and I have been thinking about New Year’s resolutions that will improve mother-teen relationships—a 2014 gift from us to those of you who are experiencing the ups and downs of such relationships. If you aren’t: Congratulations. And you’re weird.

So, here are the “Resolutionary” acts moms can take—according to one sometimes beleaguered mom and her lovely, thoughtful, perfect teen daughter. As with all our mom-teen posts, we do not read the other person’s work before we write our own. Thus the interesting overlap—and contrast—between our resolutions.

And now, to my list:

RELATED: The A to Z's of Teenagers: O Is for Optimism

Resolve to stop yourself! Not every moment is a teaching moment. Well, every moment is actually a teaching moment, but if you take full advantage (as I sometimes do) this makes for a weary and grumpy “student.”

Give yourself this assignment: Listen. I often find that when Lizzie is talking, I’m not really listening. I’m busy thinking about what I’m going to say when she stops talking.

How about cooking dinner together once a week? Even once a month?

Sometime this month, make a date to see a movie together. (Hint: Hunger Games. Lizzie and I saw it a few days ago.)

See if you can get your teen to join you in this exercise: Make separate lists of favorite music, movies, TV shows, books, video games ... any form of entertainment. You choose an item from one of your teen’s lists and go do it, see it, listen to it, etc. Your teen does the same thing with an item from one of your lists. This isn’t a shared activity. My thinking is to create a little overlap of experience to help us understand each other.

In the same vein, now that school is starting up again, read or view or listen to something your teen is assigned in one of his or her classes. No, not to be a helicopter mom but rather to get a sense for what might be rolling around in your kid’s head. Major caveat here: Do NOT use this as a springboard for what you are sure will be a fascinating talk about the material. Your kid will never tell you about another assignment ever again.

If you’re stressed out, you’ll bring that to the relationship.

Resolve, for a week if you can do it—but at least a few days—to keep a Fight Diary. That’s right. Track your disagreements. What are you fighting about? You might find that, even though you seem to be battling over different things (homework, chores, screen time, etc.), it’s really all about control or responsibility or something big that you can figure out a way to work on more productively.

One more idea for the new year: Resolve to do something together that is new to both of you. Last year Lizzie and I took a belly dancing class. She was so much better than I was, which did wonders for our relationship.

And now from Lizzie, the daughter:

First, before I get into my list, I want to say that it is really, really hard to make a list. Mom-teen relationships can be so very different, from moms and teens who seem to be “best friends” and do most everything together to those who don’t enjoy spending any time together. And maybe they are perfectly happy that way. Or maybe not. So, my resolutions fit for some relationships and not others. Here goes:

Start by taking an interest in your daughter’s (or son’s) resolutions. What’s top on her/his list? This gives you insight into what your teen is concerned about and gives you, maybe, an opportunity to help and support.

Do something for yourself every day, even something really small. If you’re stressed out, you’ll bring that to the relationship. If you’re happy and relaxed, things might go better. Emotions are contagious!

RELATED: The A to Z's of Teenagers: N Is for Never

Give your teen more space. Let them come to you, because sooner or later they will ... hopefully.

I know you want to DO STUFF with your teen because you think that’s the key to a good relationship, but in the new year resolve to DISCUSS what you might want to do together. Don’t just make plans.

Can you figure out one way that you can trust your teen that’s new for this year? Later curfew? No nightly homework checks?

You know how you can tell when someone in your life respects you? Do that with your teen.

Send texts! Don’t call.

Resolve to SEND ME AN EMAIL this month about some issue you have with your teen. I’ll give you my honest teen viewpoint. Maybe it will help! Write me at teen2mom101@gmail.com.

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