Recent research shared by the Pew Research Center is that two-thirds of parents in the U.S. believe that parenting today is harder than it was 20 years ago. The majority of parents surveyed reported they believed this was due to the increase in technology, primarily screens and social media. With busy and technology-filled modern lives, many parents ask me about how to connect with their teenagers. And so, here are some of my favorite tips for talking with your teen.
Sometimes talking with teens is as simple as creating opportunities to be around them so that conversations can start. By trying out some of these strategies for spending more time together (without screens!), you are increasing the likelihood of your teen opening up.
Be Ready for Car Conversations
The car is a great place and way to connect with your teen! It can be easier to start talking when sitting next to someone instead of looking directly at them. There’s no direct eye contact, and you as the parent are not focused completely on your teen- you’re also driving. Plus, you have a captive audience (at least for the length of your trip).
A quick errand together or ride to school may be the time and place your teen chooses to open up, so be ready!
Eat Meals Together
As much as your family’s schedule allows, try to regularly eat some meals together. For example, maybe your family can sit down for dinner together most nights, or maybe it’s just breakfast on the weekends. Creating times to share meals (without the use of phones or other electronics!) is a great opportunity for family members to talk about their days, plan activities together, or discuss current events.
Some families like to talk about each person’s “highs and lows” of the day. Others like to sometimes use conversation-starting card decks, like these, specific for teens.
Plan Some Fun
We’re all so busy these days, sometimes we forget to plan some fun. Think about things your family likes to do together. It could be going to a concert, hosting a family party, planning a vacation, or going hiking. Additionally, there are plenty of ways to have fun together at home, too. It might be having a family game night, watching movies together, or doing an arts and crafts project.
Don’t forget to involve your teen in the planning. Including some of their interests and preferences will help make your teen feel seen. And more likely that they’ll participate, too!
Give Back As a Family
You might also think about ways that your family can give back or volunteer together. Your teen may have a cause that is important to them- like animals, politics, or the environment. By giving back together, you not only nurture their interests but also support them in engaging in community activities and building character. A win!
To get started, talk with your teen about what their interests are and ways that you can get involved. Spending time together researching opportunities, volunteering, or going through unused clothing or toys allows you more opportunities to connect with your teen.
For more ideas on how to volunteer in your community, check out the YMCA’s list here.
Welcome Their Friends
As we all know, friendships are really important to teens. Encourage your teen to have friends over and make your home a welcoming space. Sometimes it’s as easy as having some good snacks and saying a warm hello!
You’ll be able to both keep a closer eye on your teen while also creating more opportunities for your teen (and their friends) to chat with you.
Don’t Forget About Chores
It seems like there’s always plenty to do around the house. Don’t be afraid to involve your teen in household projects and chores. While contributing to the household and learning life skills, they’re most importantly spending time with you!
Think about things like cleaning out the garage, raking leaves, cooking dinner, or decorating for the holidays.
Sometimes it just takes a few minutes to have a moment of real connection. Build in other small opportunities to regularly spend time with your teen.
Ideas like going to church or temple, making a regular weekend Starbucks trip, or walking the dogs together in the evenings can be easily integrated into a family’s schedule.
Sometimes just getting to spend time together with your teen is the most challenging part. Hope there are a couple of ideas here that might work for your family. Try a couple of new things, and see if it helps your teen open up!
… And stay tuned for next time: Tips for Talking with Your Teen (Part 2).
Keep reading! Click here for Part 2 of Tips for Talking with Your Teen.