Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

My mother always told me that it was the most important but also the most difficult job out there.

Now that I am a mom myself, it’s a relief to know that what matters most is not being perfect but just being willing to try. I have learned that taking small steps can lead to great progress.

Teaching Teenagers

I have been a high school science teacher for 12 years, and although I love my job, I am far from perfect.

A few years ago, a group of students in my classroom were behaving in unsafe ways during a laboratory experiment and were escorted to the dean’s office. I was disappointed with their behavior, but when the students returned to my classroom, I assumed we were all ready to move on, so I chose not to mention it.

Unfortunately, when one of the girls made another loud outburst, disrupting the class, I had to address the situation — in front of the class and then privately.

After talking with this student after that incident and as we took time to have conversations throughout the year, I learned that her anger was actually tied to larger frustrations. She was struggling with her relationships with her parents whom, she felt, were not as available to her since their divorce.

This was an important realization.

I was able to learn more about this student’s situation and offer support.

As a parent, teacher or mentor, if you find yourself regretting a negative interaction or imperfect series of events, remember that it’s never too late to apologize, ask a deeper question or try again.

Supporting Parents

Throughout my year working with this student, I reached out to her parents many times. At one point, I remember her mom telling me that she just didn’t know what to do or how to talk to her daughter.

I gave that mom the best advice that I could. I told her she just had to start. She needed to take time to connect with her daughter daily and to put in the effort just by taking some small steps.

I reminded her that no parent is perfect and that, although it might feel awkward to connect, her child needed it. I assured her that her daughter would appreciate it down the road.

Steps to Connect With Your Children

The conversations I had with that mom were just the beginning of conversations that I would have with other parents over the next few years.

It turns out we all need a little support when it comes to connecting with our kids.

When I’m having these conversations with parents and when working on my relationships with my own kids, I have found it’s helpful to have tools and support to reference.

Below is one list that has helped me. These steps are research-based methods to connect with your children and let them know you care.

  1. Express Care: Listen, encourage and be there for your children.
  2. Challenge Growth: Set expectations and hold them accountable.
  3. Provide Support: Help them navigate challenges and advocate for them.
  4. Share Power: Respect your children and involve them in decisions that affect them.
  5. Expand Possibilities: Inspire your kids. Put them in programs or take them places that will help them grow as people.

Teenagers are going through a lot. While they are seeking their independence, parents often are ready for a little independence of their own. Teenagers can appear to be able to handle life’s challenges on their own, but they still need to have that parental/guardian connection and focus. This is something that I repeat year after year, parent meeting after parent meeting.

Take heart, and remember that even little efforts go a long way.

A portrait of Laura Funk, a guest writer for the website.

Laura Trevena-Funk

Laura Funk is a proud Colorado native who is married to her high school sweetheart. She is a mom of two elementary kids and teaches High School Science. She has an AS, BS and MS and is a University of Northern Colorado Bear for life. She and her husband have been writing a lifestyle and parenting blog, We Got the Funk, for 10 years. Through the blog, they love that they are able to connect with their community and help other people find love and laughter through the honest chaos of life.