Whether you’re a parent with a child you’re having difficulty connecting with or a leader/educator who is trying to help young people understand that you’re here to help, making a real connection with today’s youth is often one of the most difficult things you will need to do.

After all, they’ll likely be viewing you with a heavy layer of mistrust and doubt, and plenty of adults go about the process so ineptly that they only make that divide worse.

One of the biggest issues is that many people try too many gimmicky or disingenuous approaches towards connecting with youth. Instead, just being straightforward and focusing on a few simple things can make a much better impact.

The reason for that is simple. Kids today are much smarter than we usually give them credit for. They will often recognize when you’re genuine and when you’re not, and it’s important to remember a few simple things to help improve your odds of connecting with today’s youth.

• Respect is a two-way street. First and foremost, if you really want to connect with youth, you have to respect them fully. Do so, on a consistent basis and they’ll likely do the same for you.

• Never assume the worst about a young person. For instance, they may seem lazy but in reality they simply have difficulty concentrating. Always give a student or young person the benefit of the doubt, and you’ll be able to show them that you’re not simply there to judge or criticize.

• Remember things that matter. Names are the most obvious thing, but try to make a mental note of a young person’s likes, hobbies, and plans. This way you can communicate with them and show them that you actually care and have been paying attention.

• Find common bonds. For example, you may find that you share a favorite TV show, band, or even a favorite video game with a young person. This shared interest can help to not only break the ice, but to form a connection that will lead to much better things for both of you.

• Step outside of your usual setting. If you’re a teacher or a youth leader, heading outside of the classroom can help show students that you’re making a real effort to connect with them. For instance, you could go to one of their football games or connect with them over appropriate social media sites. Anything you can do that seems like an extra step could help show them that you’re serious about connecting with them.

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