Teenagers are tough, I have two of them. Some are moody and opinionated, some are silent and brooding, but no matter what personality yours has, teens can be challenging. But just below all the tough talk and bravado is that little person you once knew. Here are 10 great ways to connect with your teen.
Talk to them! This may sound simple, but really, it’s harder than it should be. The disconnect is usually that teens don’t want to talk when you want to talk to them. Choose the right moment to let a conversation begin. Maybe your son wanders into the kitchen for a snack. That may be your moment to say, “Hi, have a lot of homework tonight?” Or, “Did anything crazy happen at school today?” These questions are usually better conversation starters than, “How was your day?” Trying to start a conversation with your teen when he or she is in the middle of homework, or just out of a hard day of class may not be when they are ready to open up and talk.
Give them your full attention. When your teen does talk to you give them your full attention. Put down your phone, stop folding laundry, reading your book, or answering that email. How annoying is it when you want to talk to them and they stare at their phone the whole time. While it is an inconvenience to you, think about how great it is that your kid wants to talk. Don’t let them be rude and interrupting, but you can always say, “Give me one second while I put down this laundry basket.”
Be interested in your teen’s interests. During one of these candid moments, listen closely to pick up details of their personality. You may know that your kid LOVES to play video games and would spend every hour of the day doing it if allowed, but have you ever asked why? Either sit down and play with her, or start asking intelligent questions. Maybe your daughter spends hours at a time watching makeup tutorials online. Volunteer to be her canvas, and let her try out that cat eye eyeliner technique.
Follow them on social media. I follow my kids on their social media accounts, not just to monitor their activities, but to understand them better. Most likely, if they’re posting about it, they’re interested in it. Try to hold off on the obnoxious parent comments like, “Honey you are SO cute!” and things like that. Those kinds of comments may have the reverse effect.
Take them to the library. You can learn a lot about your kids (and people in general) by the kinds of books they read. Also, this provides lots more conversation time and topics.
Bring your teen with you to the grocery store. Lots of opportunities with this trip. You’ve got budgeting, meal planning, and plenty of time for conversations. You want to make sure your kid makes more than ramen noodles in college right? Then teach them how the grocery store works.
Have a family meal night. Sometimes our schedule is just too crazy, but as often as possible, we sit down as a family for dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Everyone can sit around the table and eat macaroni and cheese with apple slices on the side as easily as they can sit around a table of steak. Your teen may respond better to certain meals, so consider that when planning. Once we’re eating, we go around and talk about our “peak and pit” or the best part of the day and the worst part of our day. This usually inspires further conversation, haha a win!
Help your teen cook a meal. All sorts of life lessons can be taught in the kitchen. Patience, planning, multi-tasking, learning how to “wing it” when something happens and a meal just doesn’t work. Sit on counter and chat while they cook. Answer questions if they have them. Just try to avoid criticizing. That often makes people shut down.
Let your teen plan a day trip. The kind of day trip is totally whatever works best for your family. Maybe you’ve been meaning to take your teen to tour colleges, maybe you’re extra budget conscious and need to keep the trip closer to home. Either way, let your teen choose the itinerary (they may need some guidance). This is the same concept as “let your little kid cook with you and maybe they’ll eat what they cooked.”
When all else fails take your teen to Starbucks. Teenagers love Starbucks. Even if you don’t want them to drink caffeine, Starbucks has plenty of non-caffeinated options too. Getting a teenager into an environment they like and feeding them, can often yield positive results.
Teenagers are temperamental. They’re full of hormones, trying to manage the stressful situation that is junior high and high school. Teens, like everybody, want to feel special, valued, like they’re being listened to, and understood. Accomplishing this will not happen in a day. The best conversations often happen in seemingly small, unexpected moments. You don’t have to schedule time for a formal conversation. Take time to listen to them, either their words or their actions. Connecting with your teen is possible and can actually be fulfilling and enjoyable.