8 Ways to Connect with Your Teen

Parenting Relationship Teen Help Families Canada
Source: Pixabay Public Domain

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.

 

The Legacy of a Father’s Love and Influence

Inspiring Story of the Difference Dad Made

Parenting, Fathers, Daddy's Girl Maple Ridge

Dad’s make a difference. This Father’s Day I hope to inspire fathers to continue to love, support and give to their children. Children learn discipline and courage, have fun, gain security, and a powerful reference of relationships through the attachment they develop with their fathers. Here is a personal story of the impact my father had on my life.

This post was origionally composed as my opening article for this blog on his birthday.

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My daddy is a paragon of patience, our in-home comic, is kind, my greatest fan and cheer leader, and my inspiration. Today, (July 11) is my Daddy’s 79th birthday and in honour of him I wanted to share some of my memories to inspire other fathers (and parents generally) to love their daughters/family with a similar sincerity.

My daddy is Frank E. He was raised with his sister and brother by “Indi”, a single mother. Frank was a chartered accountant who loved the world of numbers and finance and spent most of his career working in the banking sector. He raised his first child, Lauren, with the help of his mother until she was 16 when she took the opportunity to live overseas with her mother. In the late sixties he married my mother and 4 years later they had me, and then 4 years later, my sister, Trecia.

He was a very handsome young man and maintained his looks well into his middle years. He always dressed well and I remember his early morning laps around our front lawn to keep himself fit. As a little girl I would enjoy occasionally joining him for a few laps, walking/jogging, talking and joking.

Daddy was a jokester. His jokes were almost never funny but in a corny kind-of-way that made us love him for his loving attempt to amuse us. He was a follower of people like the 3 Stooges, Wayne and Shuster, and Benny Hill. I remember the joke of “Mr. Chester” he would recite and act out cracking up to himself. Even in his saddest moment, after the death of his mother, he kept his humour, joking about the loads of hankies he had for his impending tears.

He was also a kind, dependable provider. Whenever I needed something, the way a teenage girl ‘needs’ a new outfit, he would mostly ‘seemingly reluctantly’ open up his wallet to me. Dad provided more than cash, he was also a faithful, incredibly patient transporter. Dad would drive us anywhere no matter the distance, drop us off and pick us  ( and a carload of our friends) up again. My Dad would sit in his parked car for up to 1 hr for us at the party if we decided to stay longer. As I visualise him sitting in that grey Peugeot now, tears well up in my eyes because I never did enough to thank him for his extra-ordinary patience.

I also remember movie times with my dad. Sunday morning matinees after breakfast were special times we shared. I would snuggle next to him on the living room sofa or in his bed and watch some of his favourite actors in action –James Stewart, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracey & Kathryn Hepburn, Gina Rogers & Fred Astaire, etc. He taught me that a movie is only as good as the actors involved. (This is probably why I hardly go to the movies these
days, with CGI who acts anymore?).

My Daddy was an encourager. He made me feel more valued than millions of $$$ by the pride he expressed in me. It’s one thing to tell your child you’re proud of them & their accomplishments but my Dad would brag about me. Wherever we were, whenever I was with him and we would run into his friends he would boast to them about how I was doing in school or at work (he still did this when I became an adult). He made me want to make him always be proud of me. So when I was tempted as a teenager to engage in risky behaviours  (drugs, unprotected sex, etc) I was restrained by the thought of possibly disappointing my Dad.

One of the long-standing effects of my father’s love for me is outlived in my choice of husband. How could a girl who was so thoroughly loved the first man in her life settle for anything less? One conscious criteria for mate selection for me was a man who would love me as husband but also would love our children like he did as a father.  Most parents have love for their children, but my Daddy’s love is KNOWN by his children. My father gave me the reference in experience to recognise a good man when I met him. Through my husband, B & R, also have this experience of unconditional love.

Today my Dad is unable to read this. His body is severely damaged by over 15 years of Parkinson’s disease . He is unable to tell me any corny jokes as his speech is incomprehensible. He doesn’t know/remember his grandchildren (my children), even his namesake – B. Frank as Alzheimer emerges. My hope is some disengaged father will be encouraged to step up and be a daddy, or fathers will be encouraged to sustain their efforts in loving their kids. A Daddy’s love has lifetime and multi-generational effects.

Happy Birthday Daddy, I LOVE YOU!!!

Thank you for reading. My father died in Fall 2013 after a courageous fight with Parkinsons Disease for 20 years. The disease didn’t beat him, at 81 years we finally let him go. He had done his part; the legacy of his love and influence lives on within us.

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