When our pre-teen and teenage kids begin to want to spend more time alone, away from us and with their friends, the shift can be unsettling, especially at first. We worry what their time away means, what they’re doing, and who they’re with. As parents, we search for ways to connect with them when Chutes and Ladders and bedtime stories are a thing of the past.
The teen years bring a watershed of change: hormones, maturity, shift in focus, and independence. Teens pull away (often secluding themselves in their rooms) as a way to begin to separate from the family and their parents to continue to develop their emerging identity. It’s a good thing! It does, however, make connecting with our pre-teen and teenage kids a bit harder. Here are some tips on how to make connecting a priority this summer.
Make Meal Time an Event
Experts suggest families eat meals together, we know that. While that can be tough due to work, school, social, and extra curricular activities, thinking outside of the box can get it done. Can’t do dinner because of work? How about family breakfast instead? Making it more about the process than the activity will also help. Choosing a menu that gets everyone involved — pizza from scratch or an individual baked potato bar, for example — will increase the opportunity for connection, and the fun!
Not Every Moment is Teachable
Give it a rest. It can be hard when our time with our teenage kids is limited, but teaching your way through a hike or a movie night is a surefire way to get them to tune out. They do want to hear what you have to say, they just don’t want to hear it all the time. Embrace the time to you have to connect, and avoid correcting their every move.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
In researching this article, I asked a handful of kids aged 12 to 17 (boys and girls) what they liked to do with their parents for fun. Although the sample size was small, they all mentioned some of the same activities. Topping their lists were walking, hiking, traveling, fishing, and going to the beach. They also mentioned bonfires, family meals, and family vacations as activities they enjoyed. One, a 16-year old girl, said she liked to join her parents going places that they like to go. Put the dishes down. Save the laundry for later. Go for a walk.
Flip the Script
Flip the script! Do something a bit unexpected! Have them plan what they’d like to do with their time with you. Their investment in the activity will foster the connection we all crave, and you will get to learn a lot about who they are now and the adults they are becoming.
When Teenage Kids Leave You Wondering
It’s important to note that some separation and alone time is not only appropriate, but necessary. If you are concerned that what your teen is experiencing is outside the realm of normal development, contact your pediatrician or mental health professionals immediately.
We hope you’ll be able to put some of these tips to use this summer. With the state of our world today, there’s no better time than now to implement some new tactics and find unique ways to connect with teenage kids.