10 Easy Ways To Connect With Your Teenager
Written by James Kicinski-McCoy
Photography by Photographed by Maria Del Rio
When most of us find out we’re going to be parents, we are so overjoyed with the thought of having a sweet, tiny baby in our arms that it’s hard to comprehend them eventually growing up and becoming adults with minds of their own. The fact is, those babies do grow up, and fast! Before you know it, you’ve got a teenager on your hands who’s asking for your car keys and a later curfew. It’s common for parents to shudder at the thought of having a teenager, given what we all remember ourselves doing at that age and the hell we bestowed upon our own parents!
Yes, teenagers may be hormonal and are starting to deal with the pressures from school, their peers, and in this technical age, social media. However, more and more parents these days are sharing just how incredible the teenage years can be with the right approach and giving those of us who are apprehensive a little ray of hope. Connecting with your teen is vital to a healthy and open relationship, and doing so is actually much easier than you may think. Take a look at these tried-and-true tips on how to easily bond with your soon-to-be or already-there teenager.
Open Your Doors. Teenagers usually have one thing at the top of their minds and that’s their friendships. Invite your teens to have their buddies over to your house as often as comfortably possible, letting your house become a warm, fun home-base for after-school hangs, weekend get-togethers, and sleepovers. This way, you can get to know your child’s circle of friends and keep a close watch without being overbearing.
Rituals. Creating traditions and rituals together is a really great way to bond, have fun together, and make special memories as a family. Maybe it’s going to eat at everyone’s favorite local restaurant each week, or treating yourselves and the kids to something special once a month for good grades, hard work, good manners and attitudes. Whatever it is, make it fitting for your unique family and stick with it.
Dine Together. There’s no better time to connect than over a meal. Make sitting down and eating together as a family a regular thing in your home, whether it’s breakfast, lunch time, a weekend brunch, or dinner. Here, you can catch up, share stories, and strike up a conversation about current events. If your kid’s ages are spread out, one-on-one meals with just your teens can be really beneficial, allowing them to feel comfortable opening up and having adult conversations with mom or dad.
Sweet Nothings. No matter how “cool” and “grown up” your teen may think they are, they still love and crave affection. Easily connect your with your teen on a daily basis by doing those things that come naturally to you as a parent—saying “I love you” often, making sure to always tell your teens “good night” and “good morning”, surprising them with their favorite after-school snack in the pantry, or making a big breakfast before school are all extremely simple ways to show how much you care, and are appreciated by kids of all ages.
Follow Their Lead. So, your teenage son is into basketball or your teenage daughter has a strong interest in art. Suggest to shoot some hoops one afternoon or sign you and your daughter up for a fun painting session at a local art center. It’s important to support your kid’s interests and get involved when and where you can.
Make A Date. Let’s face it, between our busy schedules and the activities and homework of our teens, finding time to do much of anything else can easily become an after-thought. Make an effort to schedule regular “dates” with your young adults—catch a matinee, go fishing, take them to go see a concert, go for a hike, take them on a practice driving session, or bring your teenage daughter along for a mani-pedi. Spending more time together is a surefire way to keep your bond tight and have fun doing so!
Work Together. No one likes to do chores, but it certainly makes them seem a lot more tolerable when you have some help. Instead of waiting until the mess is out of hand, designate an afternoon once a week where the entire family gets together and helps each other dust and vacuum the house, mow the grass, do the laundry, etc. This way it’s all-hands-on-deck and you can turn on some music and pump out the chores while making it fun.
Get Cooking. Is your teen a foodie like you? Invite him or her to help make dinner, Sunday brunch, or have them choose a weekly recipe that you make together to contribute to the family meal plan. Not only is this a good way to get some extra hands in the kitchen, but it’s also a great time to reconnect and talk about what’s going on in your child’s life. Ask questions and show genuine interest in what’s happening in his or her personal life and at school. Make sure to relate and offer advice in an adult-to-adult way instead of a mom-to-kid way, which will make your teen feel more open to communicating freely.
Just Listen. All-in-all, what teenagers really need are parents who are genuinely interested in what they have to say. These years can be trying for young-adults and the seemingly little things can feel like really big things to them, whether they’re struggling with grades, rejection, bullies, or just feeling overwhelmed. You want to be the person they come to when things get tough, no matter what. Welcome and encourage your child to come to you anytime they just need to talk, ask, or cry it out in a no-judgement-zone.
Keep It Real. While all of these tips may sound great, don’t start planning your brand new “Mommy-and-Me” schedule quite yet. Talk to you teen about spending more time together. Mention some of the suggestions above and start off slow—after all, they are still teenagers.
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