Are you looking for simple ways to connect with your teen? In our fast-paced modern society, it can be really challenging to have meaningful moments together. I’ve tried to find opportunities to connect with my teen and I’ve discovered 10 simple ways that I return to again and again.
Because raising teens can be scary!
It seems like this is the general consensus anyway.
Experienced parents who have “survived” the teen years are known to look at us novices with sympathy, let out a sigh, and assure us that “these years won’t last forever” and that we will,
We also hear the tales of teens led astray and stay awake at night wondering what perils are waiting just around the corner.
Teenagers constantly attached to their phones.
Pressures associated with social media.
Disrespectful behavior towards adults.
Concerns about emotional and mental health.
Academic stress, peer pressure, bullying, awkwardness, insecurity…
It can feel TOTALLY overwhelming and we often feel COMPLETELY unprepared.
If you are currently parenting a teen, or if the teen years are right around the corner, you might be feeling like a deer in the headlights. Unsure, anxious, TERRIFIED!?!
but what if you had 10 simple ways to connect with your teen that allowed you to strengthen your relationship?
My hunch is that this knowledge would help ease your anxiety, (at least a little bit!) At the very least, it would definitely provide some simple strategies for your parenting.
Because these babies that we nurtured into toddler-hood and then transitioned into childhood, are now morphing into full-fledged nearly-young adults right before our eyes. We’re entering yet another phase of parenting.
Emotions are constantly changing, hormones are raging, and they’ve got their very own opinions about a wide range of topics.
So OF COURSE raising teens can be really scary!
But you know what I’m discovering?
It’s also an incredible time for connection!
As I’m fumbling through this uncharted territory of raising a teen, I’ve found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with an acquaintance, several years back.
I remember running into her at a coffee shop. She has two children and her oldest was 13 at the time.
I asked her how it was going, raising a teenager, and she smiled and told me how wonderful it was.
Wait, what? Did she say “wonderful”!?!
She said that sure, there were plenty of mood swings and hormonal
But mostly, she confided, it was wonderful.
They had deep conversations about meaningful topics.
Their house was always open to her son’s friends, so she was getting to know a variety of teens, which she felt was an honor.
She was constantly exposed to her son’s emerging interests which she herself found quite interesting.
There were movie nights, coffee dates, book discussions, and laughter.
They continued spending plenty of time together, just in evolving ways that looked different from the younger years.
She continued to prioritize their connection.
As I later left the coffee shop, I walked away thinking about how I wanted to prioritize a few key areas when my own children became teenagers.
First, I decided that I wanted to do my absolute best to accept that the teen years would be unique from anything I’d experienced as a parent so far. I didn’t want to compare the teen years to the younger years or waste precious time wishing my children were still little.
I wanted to accept WHERE we were when we were actually THERE.
Second, I considered how important it was for me to pay attention to each child’s unique interests and encourage them to pursue their unique areas of passion and curiosity. I knew this might be challenging but I also knew that I would have a much greater chance of being invited into the details of their lives if I approached it from a place of encouragement versus judgment.
And third, I wanted to be sure to celebrate my child. Not tolerate them. Not even just accept them. Nope.
I wanted to celebrate them EXACTLY how they were, not who I thought or hoped they should be.
I am now the mother of both a tween and a teen. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m parenting a 12 and 14-year old, but somehow I am.
And while I still sometimes worry about the future and doubt my abilities, this journey is fascinating.
I’m making plenty of mistakes, spending many moments exhausted and confused, and I often wonder if I’ve made the right decision regarding one of my parenting choices.
But I’m also learning, growing, and connecting in ways that are in a word…
Over the past couple of years, I’ve found some simple ways to connect with my teenage daughter.
Not only are they inexpensive and simple, but they can be easily incorporated on a regular basis.
I’m passing them along in the hopes that you’ll find some inspiration too.
Here are 10 simple ways to connect with your teen!
1. Engage in side by side conversation
Having a conversation with someone face to face can feel really intense for some people. Not everyone enjoys this kind of interaction, especially teens!
Instead, try engaging in an activity where you will be side by side. Running errands together, walking the dog, cooking in the kitchen, or simply driving in the car are great opportunities for low key conversation.
Relieve any unnecessary pressure and engage in side by side conversation.
2. Have an open-door policy
Teens usually want to spend a lot of time with their friends. And I’m going to assume that YOU want to know who your child’s friends are!
What better way to do this than to have an open-door policy and provide a warm and inviting place where your child’s friends feel welcome!?!
Encourage dinner and sleepovers at your house. Have a variety of movies, music, board games, cards, and video games easily accessible. Plan on having pizza, soda, ice cream, or any other favorite snacks readily available too!
Be the house where your child’s friends are always welcome
3. Watch a movie together
Now, this next part is important so please pay attention!
Let THEM choose the movie!
This isn’t the time for you to express your strong desire to watch something you’ve had on your “must-see” list. This is all about connecting with your teen.
So set yourself up for success! Either head out to a movie of THEIR choice or grab some popcorn and watch something together, at home.
Enjoy watching a movie together.
4. Read the same book
Just like with the movie, let THEM choose the title of the book!
Even if the book they choose doesn’t interest you AT ALL, suck it up and read it anyway!
You may decide you want to chat about the book as you both read it independently. Or you may want to listen to an audiobook together or take turns reading aloud.
When you’ve finished the book, discuss your thoughts about it together.
5. go Grab coffee
Honestly, you can substitute just about anything for “coffee”. Doughnuts, lunch, groceries… just extend an invitation to your child and see if they want to join you.
This is often a great way to chat while you’re out and about.
6. Write in a shared journal
Sometimes talking out loud is tough.
So why not write in a journal instead?!?
If you’ve got questions, concerns, observations, or simply want to connect through conversation, writing can be an effective way of communicating. So write in a journal, leave it in a place your child will see it, and extend the invitation to communicate through writing.
If you’re struggling to know how to start, there are journals available that have questions, prompts, and templates which can make the process easier. I purchased and used one with my daughter when she was transitioning to the teen years. We both thoroughly enjoyed using it together and I was pleasantly surprised at some of the topics that came up. The same author has also created one for mothers and their sons.
I’ve been looking around at journals for fathers and their teens and have found a couple that look intriguing, (though I have no personal experience using them). One is for fathers with daughters and the same author has one for fathers with sons.
Texting or email works too!
7. Leave them notes
Even when our kids are grumpy, sassy, mopey, or just plain miserable, they need to know that we love them.
In fact, it’s usually these exact times that they need these reminders the most. So along with verbally telling them when you’re together and giving them hugs, (well, if they actually let you hug them!) consider writing them notes from time to time.
Let them know how much you love them. Remind them of some of their accomplishments. Write down your favorite things about them. Leave a note on their pillow, taped to the bathroom mirror, or on their desk.
Taking a few minutes to write a loving note can have a huge impact during tough emotional times.
8. Do one of their favorite activities together
Again, let THEM choose the activity!
You may end up at the mall. Or at a skate park. Or a rock climbing gym. You may end up playing video games for hours.
The point isn’t to do an activity that you would normally choose or that you consider enjoyable. The point is to connect over an activity that your child enjoys.
And PLEASE don’t whine and complain when engaging in this chosen activity!
9. Ask them their thoughts about a current event
Teens have lots of profound thoughts and creative solutions.
Unfortunately, adults are often quick to belittle and dismiss these thoughts and solutions.
Considering our teens are a big part of our collective future, I think we owe it to them to listen to their thoughts and respect any well-formed views they have.
Show your child how much you respect their evolving opinions and ask them their thoughts about a current event.
10. Reminisce about a past event
Think back to something that happened on a family vacation or shared holiday. Something that was hilarious or embarrassing or memorable in some other way. You might want to look through related pictures or videos.
These times of reminiscing can be wonderful opportunities for connection.
Can the teen years be full of challenges?
But they can also be full of meaningful moments, memory making, and the adventure of discovering who your teen is becoming.
Armed with these 10 simple ways to connect with your teen, I’m wishing you all the best on your journey!