12 ways to Bond with Tweens and Teens
Your tween or teen may be busier than ever with school, sports and socializing. As parents, we have to be intentional about connecting with them. (And by connecting, I don’t mean leaving a comment on that photo they posted on Facebook.)
I remember reading a quote from Robert Downey Jr. years ago when his child turned 13. His statement went something like, “My job is now to service my teen.” I thought maybe he was kidding, and if he was serious, it was a pathetic attitude.
Then I had tweens and teens.
It is easy to feel as if we are simply providing services for our teens – as a chauffeur, cheerleader and bank account – as they navigate adolescence. But parenting teens is about nurturing them in simple ways.
These suggestions offer easy ways to strengthen bonds at home.
Make sure their friends feel welcome. This is one of the best ways to see more of your kids. Sometimes having their friends around loosens them up and better facilitates certain discussions than if you were alone, so take advantage.
See a movie together. Take turns choosing the film, which provides an opportunity to share favorite movies or actors teens may otherwise never see.
Let them help you cook. Trying a new recipe is a great way to bond, even if your culinary attempts are a disaster. My kids love to help bake yeast breads or bagels, and because of the rising time, they linger much longer than if we were just making waffles. It is hard to be cranky when the whole house smells like heavenly fresh bread, and baking skills are a great investment for the future.
Eat together. This can be nearly impossible as everyone heads in different directions for lessons and sports, but it is important to carve out time. It doesn’t have to be dinner. If everyone is available for a long leisurely Saturday morning breakfast, go for it. Let your kids take turns choosing a restaurant or favorite dish, and insist they unplug.
Reminisce about old times. Tweens and teens love to hear about funny things they said and did when they were little. The stories never get old and often trigger more memories and tales you may have forgotten. Laugh it up!
Get hooked on one TV show. Everyone in our house is home on Wednesday nights to watch our family favorite on TV. As a bonus, the show always hits on some spiritual themes we discuss openly. We even took a family vacation to the location where our favorite show is filmed.
Show them your work. Sometimes we forget that it’s OK, and even beneficial, for our children to see our other roles. It makes my children feel more grown up when my husband and I include them in conversations about our careers. I’m not suggesting you bore them to tears with technical language that alienates, but share a little to expose them to the world of work and your other roles.
Watch their favorite online videos. My kids have introduced me to some of the most hilarious videos only children their age could discover. Laughing together is sweet relief from the daily nagging.
Ask about their high and low. Since adolescents are notorious for grunting and monosyllabic responses, regularly ask them to report on their high (the best thing that happened during the day) and their low (the worst). It is as healthy for them to reflect on these experiences as it is for you to be aware of them.
Create special memories between holidays. Don’t wait for a holiday or birthday to create special moments. Light candles and play fun music on a Tuesday night when it’s just spaghetti on the menu. Bake something special on a random night, plating it creatively like a restaurant would. Surprise them on a free weeknight by announcing you’re all going bowling. Treat them to a one-on-one lunch at their favorite restaurant.
Write a love note. It can be difficult to find the right moment to express what is in your heart, but teens need to know how much you cherish them. Take the time to write how thankful you are for them and leave it on their pillows. They may never mention it, but it will matter.
Be brave and take a road trip. Sometimes the best way to re-connect is by putting some miles between your family and the daily grind. Even if it is a day trip, find ways to make the commute more pleasant and set ground rules, such as no arguing or discussing sore subjects like grades and school work.
Michele Ranard is a freelance writer with a husband, two children, a master’s in counseling and a blog at www.cheekychicmama.com.