Just like a friendship, building a strong relationship with a parent takes some effort and practice.

If you’re ready to start strengthening your connection, here is my advice for where to start:

Remember that not every conversation has to be “important”

Talk about your day — what you’re passionate about or what you’re looking forward to. Talking with my parents about even little unimportant things has helped us get into the habit of communicating, and that makes it easier for me to talk to them about something hard.

Share the good things with them

Tell them your good news, so they can celebrate with you! Tell them your funny story from math class. Show them the meme that made you laugh at your phone. Having positive interactions, even quick ones, can help you both feel closer.

Make time together

Time together doesn’t have to mean heart-to-hearts (but it can, if that’s what you’re into). Try finding an activity you like to do together, spending time cooking, doing chores together or even just pick a show you both want to watch and settle in for some couch time.

For example, in the summer, my mom and I like to sit outside together around sunset. Sometimes we do our own things and don’t talk, and other times we really connect. Either way, making the time is part of our routine.

It doesn’t matter what your “thing” is — making the time shows that you care.

Recognize when they make an effort

Sometimes, parents miss the mark or you just don’t want to talk when they do. (This happens to me and my parents all the time.) We’re all human. We all have bad days and make mistakes. Instead of shutting your parent out, let them know you see that they’re trying, even if they aren’t quite getting it right.

Politely tell your parents how you’re feeling or what you need — you can try phrases like:

  • “I want to have this conversation. I’m just really tired right now. Can we talk about it tomorrow?”
  • “I know you’re trying to help by telling me how to solve my problem, but I really just need to talk through it right now with you.”

If they don’t get it, try explaining it

It’s been a while since your parent was your age. They might not remember how they felt when they were a teen, and — let’s be honest — we live in an entirely different world than they did!

If something feels important to you, it is important, even if your parent can’t see it immediately.

While parents can be a great source of support, they’re not the only source of support out there.

If your parents are dismissive, critical, don’t show you they care or if you don’t feel comfortable bringing up a certain tough issue with them, look to friends, peers or other trusted adults for support and validation.

Not everyone is close to their parents, especially as a teen. That’s okay.