When my children were little, I would envision the teenage years with trepidation. I remembered all I had put my parents through, and was confident retribution was right around the corner. Now, our oldest is 15, our second is just days from turning 13, our third daughter is a tween and our son isn’t far behind. And I’m here to tell you; Yes, the teen years come with unique challenges, but don’t all stages? Honestly, these years may be my favorite years yet. Gasp! I know, right?!
I am far from an expert. But as a mom of teens and tweens, I see there are some things that have helped to build the relationships I have with my children now. Not all teens are doomed to be sulky and avoid you like the plague. (Or maybe avoid you like COVID-19 would be more appropriate?) Anyway, to you parents dreading or struggling with the teenage years, here are some simple things you can do that will hopefully help deepen the connection with your teen.
Grab a latte
Or a frappuccino, or whatever it is that you can enjoy together. A spontaneous, “Hey! Want to run to the coffee shop really quick?” always lights up my teen’s eyes, and provides an opportunity for some great one-on-one conversation.
Watch a movie (of their choice)
So maybe you aren’t dying to watch Twilight, but if your teen is, then watch it just because they want to. To add to the fun, have some of their favorite snacks and candy on hand.
Play a game
Invest in some two-person games that your teen will like for some spontaneous one-on-one time. We’ve become a little Mancala obsessed in our house. It’s a super simple and fun two-person game that doesn’t take a lot of time to play. Shut The Box, Lost Cities and Blink are some of our favorites.
Find a hobby you both can enjoy
Recently, my kids have taken up playing the piano, so I decided to get out my old clarinet and start playing some tunes myself. It’s been fun to listen to each other play, and has sparked some great conversations. We also started doing yoga together a couple of times a week. Maybe there’s something you both have wanted to try? Now’s the perfect time! Not sure what to do? Try hiking, knitting, fishing, painting, running, bike riding or cooking.
Host a regular gathering of their friends
Once my kids enter middle school, I begin a monthly Bible study for them and a few close friends. My daughter is in high school now, and we still meet monthly. This has been an incredible way for us to connect. You could have a cooking club, a book club, or just a standing once-a-month pizza night.
Be the driver
Until your child can drive (yikes!), this time in the car can be incredibly valuable, not only for connecting with them and their friends, but also for listening. There is something about having the music on, and not making intense eye contact, that seems to make car conversations some of the best of all.
Interact with their social accounts
Give their posts a like and a comment, check out the comments their friends are making, and get a glimpse into their life via social media. This shows them you are there, and also is important so that you can keep an eye on what is happening in their digital world.
We all long to have good relationships with our children, and some days are better than others. If it’s been hard to connect with your tween or teen, don’t lose hope. They are dealing with hormones, friendships, social media and all of the challenges that come with being a teenager during a pandemic. Some days they may be hot, and some days they may be cold. But if I’m being honest with myself, I can be that way, too … and I’m in my 40s.
So keep trying. Keep pursuing. And even if they aren’t receptive to your desire to hang out now, they will know that you are there for them. They will know you are trying. And that speaks volumes.