Fun Ways to Draw Closer to Your Adolescent
Sadly many parents and teen’s relationships grow in distance during the teen years. Parents get discouraged by their teen’s pre-occupation with their peers and media and their “apparent” disinterest in spending time with their family. However, their apathy is only an illusion. Teens do want to connect with their families but they won’t initiate. Parents this means you have to take the lead. Here are some suggestions of ways you may connect with your teen.
1. Family Photo Sort – Print out some of those digital family photos from recent family events. Have teens help you sort them out. Invite each family member to create a page for themselves with a collection of their favourite family pics. As you go through this activity be open to ask each other about your memories of the events.
2. Family Jam Session. Teens spend a lot of time listening to music on their iPods. Do you know what are your teen’s favourite tunes? Remember when you were a teen and the greatest thing was your own “mixed tape” of your favourite music? (Okay, maybe I am dating myself). Create a playlist of your favourite music, invite your teen(s) to do the same. Set aside a time to have a family jam session where each person plays their playlist. CAUTION: This is not the time to criticise the lyrics of your teens’ songs. Allow yourselves to sing out loud, get up and dance (or sway). Do ask them open questions: “tell me about this artist?” Comment on the genre: “many of these songs are hip-hop, do you like that style of music best? What other songs would you add to this list?”. Tell them which of their favourites you like best. (Try hard to find one, please). Ask them to tell you which of yours they like best too. You may extend this activity by asking your teens to create a family playlist so the next time you are going on a long road trip you can All listen to some music together.
3. LikeU-Texting – Send your teen a random text telling them 3 things you like about them.
4. Do a JigSaw Puzzle together. Your teen may say they don’t want to but most teens will get into it, after a while.
5. BFF Date. Get to know your teen’s best friend. During adolescence this person may have as much, maybe more, influence in your teen’s life as you do. Arrange to spend time with your teen and their best friend at a place of their choice. Let the teens choose where s/he is willing to be ‘seen’ out with you. Be prepared you may have to drive to another city J – maybe a sport’s game, a movie, at a restaurant, or at home playing their favourite video game. A note about video gaming, you need to be at ease with the possibility of being embarrassed as a gamer. Many parents who focus on their game performance withdraw from such activities and miss the value of the quality time altogether.
6. Celebrate their accomplishments. Remember when your child was a preschooler or young child you would display their accomplished art and achievements on the fridge door and talk to all your friends about them. Why not celebrate with the same gusto your teens achievements or joyous events? Buy a cake when your daughter get asked on their first date or gets noticed by the guy she’s been crushing on, order in their favourite ethnic food when your son makes the sport’s team, take a special trip when your child stands up to that bully. Rejoice when they rejoice.
7. Share a Personal Grief Story. Yes, it is great to share our accomplishments but your teens need to see or hear about your hurts and losses to know that you are real. When we share only the great positives we send the unintentional subconscious message, “I am perfect, you should be too”. This is discouraging and creates distance when a teen feel s/he can’t live up to their parents. Share with your teen a time in your adolescence when you were hurt, felt betrayed, felt rejected, or embarrassed. Let them know how you dealt with it. If you didn’t deal with it well, let them know. You may say something like, “I know now that this was not the best way to deal with it, maybe I should have _________”. This actually teaches teens that they can own their pain and learn from it.
8. Do a Community Act of Service Together. As a former youth leader, I was always pleasantly surprised at how passionately teens, including the ‘cool’ boys, can get behind a cause. Volunteer as a family to help a neighbour move, to serve food at the food-bank, organise a neighbourhood toy drive for children living in a women’s shelter, train together and do a Run for a cause, and so forth. You may discover a new appreciation of your teen’s compassion as you serve together.
Please remember this is about maintaining relationship. Your teen may not “seem” eager to spend time with you, but this is only an illusion. I have spoken to many tough, apathetic teens who deeply wish they had a closer relationship with their parent(s). And may I add for the emphasis, this includes the boys. You may have to do an activity more than once for it to ‘catch on’ for them. You may have to be flexible and spontaneous and shift the flow of an interaction. Be courageous and reach out to your teen in one of these ways today.