I have a somewhat vague memory of being 16 or 17 and having an argument with my mother about something epic. So epic that I can’t remember what it was. I do, however, remember her argument-ending declaration…

“I am your mother, not your friend.”

I doubt that my mother intended, or realized, what an impact that statement would have on me. My teenage understanding was that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) talk to her about things that I’d discuss with my friends…boys, insecurities, hopes, clothes, and life in general. I knew that my mother loved me…but I wasn’t entirely sure that she liked me. She clearly didn’t want to be my friend.

Now, 20+ years later, I’m trying to unlearn that dynamic. My mother emails me, posts on my Facebook wall, reads my blog, and is often my most vocal cheerleader. She does all the things that a friend would do. It’s a subtle shift that I often have a hard time wrapping my head around.

As the mother of an 18-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, I often hear my mother’s statement echoing in my head. In my life, one role does not exclude the other. I have chosen to work hard at maintaining both aspects of my relationship with my kids. Here are five ways to be both a friend and a parent to your teens:

1. Respect their choices, but don’t always allow them to choose. Teens need boundaries and rules. They need guidance. Using the old adage of “picking your battles” allows you to respect choices while still restricting those choices somewhat. I have had very few fashion battles with my teens…in large part because I respect their choices while setting limits. Recently, my daughter put on a dress that was just a tad too short. Rather than insulting her choice, I suggested that she wear leggings to make the outfit more appropriate for school. The result? An adorable outfit and no hard feelings.

2. A little empathy goes a long way. Friends show empathy for one another. Conversations are often punctuated with exclamations of “I know exactly what you mean!” Your teenagers deserve the same compassion. Instead of telling them that something is “really not a big deal” in your older and wiser voice, try showing some empathy...”I remember how hard it was/how much it hurt.” They’ll be more likely to communicate with you if you validate their feelings.

3. Let them see you as a person, not just a parent. My kids know that I have friends, hobbies, interests, and obligations that they aren’t a part of. Likewise, I know that they need space to be their own person. We make the effort to really know our friends. Why not put the same effort into knowing your child…and letting them know you?

4. Be a safety net. I know that my friends will always have my back. I want my children to have the same confidence and security. My role as a parent is to teach them to make good decisions. My role as a friend is to be there for them when they don’t. This doesn’t take the place of discipline…it simply means that you’ll catch them when they fall. You’d do the same for a friend.

5. Spend time together. Face time is important for parenting and friendship. Shopping trips, car rides, and family meals are all opportunities to spend time with your teen. I’ve been surprised to hear my teens proudly tell their friends that they can’t go out because of family movie night or family game night. Carving out time lets your teen know that you value your relationship with them…as a parent, and a friend.

I think that balancing parenting with friendship has allowed me to have a closer relationship with my teens. They know that I love them as a parent…and I also like them as a friend.