Teenagers can be tough customers when it comes to hanging out with the family. The increased busyness of their schedules coupled with their desire to spend time with peers can make finding time for family activity a challenge. Add to the mix the ubiquity of smart phones and headphones, and it can feel almost impossible to get and sustain their attention.
There are a million little ways that you can connect with your teenager, but the most important thing to remember is that you have to make it a priority. It can feel like you are fighting an uphill battle to keep their attention, but it is important to make the connection. Here is a list of ideas for connecting with your teenager.
• Engage with them in one of their interests. If your teenager is always wanting to play video games, have them show you how to play their favorite game. If they love art, do a project together. If they love a certain television show, watch it with them. Try to use this time to connect rather than to critique their interests.
• Have a weekly family night where you spend several hours all together. Take turns picking what activity you do (movie, board games, craft project, video game championship, etc.)
• Volunteer together. Let your kid be part of the decision making about where.
• Have occasional “date nights” with each of your kids.
• Have a regular family meal together, at least a few times a week. It doesn’t have to be dinner, it could be breakfast, or lunch on a weekend. Don’t get too hung up if it doesn’t happen as often as you’d like—just make sure it happens sometimes.
• Make “no phones at the table” a family rule that applies to all, including parents.
• Role model for them some tech-free time. Parents are often admonishing their children to get off the internet, but they may not realize how much of the time their kids see them looking at their phones.
• Use that driving time! Sometimes kids have an easier time talking when they don’t have to stare directly at you, so car conversations can feel less intimidating and formal. Also, if they are old enough to have their driver’s permit, teaching them to drive is a guaranteed way to spend time together (although not exactly free of stress).
Sometimes parents are afraid to suggest new ideas or activities to their teenagers because it feels awkward or forced. And frankly, it probably will feel awkward and forced if it is not something you’ve done before, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Don’t take it personally when kids scoff at your “family bonding” ideas. They will. But don’t let that stop you from gently suggesting spending time together. Adolescence can be a tough time, and your kids need to know you are there for them.