As my kids have gotten older, I am going to be honest that most days I feel like I am winging it in the parenting department. As they say, bigger kids = bigger challenges! There are times that I feel like I am totally connecting with my kids and other times that I think we are on different planets. Sometimes I don’t know how to talk to my tween and teen. But there are a few things I do to keep the lines of communication open with my older kids and to let them know how much I care about them. I’m sharing Six Ways To Connect with Your Tweens and Teens that every parent can do!
Tips for Parenting Tweens and Teens
There is a whole new parenting playbook to follow when the kids get older. While parenting babies and toddlers has its own unique set of challenges, there is nothing quite like parenting tweens and teens. Older kids come with a lot of fun bonuses including fun movie nights and the ability to hang out with you and get what you are talking about!
But, there are many times that parenting tweens and teens can feel very tough! Today, I am sharing a few things you can do when parenting tweens and teens that will help keep the lines of communication open. The teenager years are a great time to really strengthen the child parent bond. So, let’s talk about a few parenting strategies you can start today!
1. Schedule one on one time
One of the easiest ways to connect with your kids is to make time to be alone with them. Whether it is running errands together or a dedicated time each week that you have breakfast together, it is important to set aside this time. My husband and I have a long standing tradition taking one of our kids out to breakfast every Friday. Each of the kids ends up with one or two days a month with one of us. It is one of our favorite times of the week and the kids really looking forward to it.
As a bonus, we let them pick out where they want to eat. I’ll admit that I end up eating a little more donuts that I would care to, but it all in the same of quality time with my kids!
Alone time doesn’t have to be grand or involve anything that costs money. It can be spending ten minutes alone with each child at the end of the day or bringing one of your kid’s along for a trip to the store!
Recently, my husband and I got the opportunity to have a day alone with our daughter. I do not know the last time it has just been the three of us. It was such a special time that it made me want to have more time like this in the future. We do not need to be with (and engaging) our kids every waking minute. But, it is important that some of the time we do have with our kids is intentional and meaningful.
2. Show Interest in Their Hobbies
It sure is tough keeping up with what is cool and relevant in the world of big kids! I’m going to honest, when my son starts talking to me about Fortnite I feel like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher. It doesn’t make much sense to me! I mean, what mom doesn’t want to hear about battle passes and skins?! But, I have found that kids LOVE it when you show them that you genuinely care about what they are talking to. My nine year old continues to share Fortnite facts with me, so he must think I find what he has to say important stuff!
With some of your kids, it might be more natural to show interest, because it is something you really like too. But with other kids and their interests, it might be a bit more a stretch. However, your kids’ interests will evolve and change over time, so if you show interest in what they like now, later on in life, they will continue to include you in to their other things as well. Right now it might be video games that they want to talk to you about, but in ten years, it might be relationships and career aspirations!
Plug in now with your kids to make it clear to them that you care about what they like!
3. Find Common Ground
Each of our kids have their own interests, and some of their things but not be things we share a love for. So, we need to find some common ground, some shared interests. This might mean that you and your child both love baking, so you find time to whip up a dessert together every now and then. Or maybe your big kid and you love to see the latest movies together. Find something that you both love and make it your “thing”.
In today’s world of constant attention to our screens, it can be so difficult to break away. But we need those times that we put down our phones and focus on what’s important. We continue to hear it again and again, but too much screen time is not healthy for any of us.
Make sure those times that you are connecting with your kids is free of phones and other distractions. Once in a while, forget to bring your phone with you when you spend time with your kids. As parents in this age, we can remember what life was like without a smart phone. Let’s teach our kids would like was like in those “preshistoric days” and make sure they can see that we can survive without these devices!
5. Understand Your Child’s Love Languages
One of my favorite parenting books is Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages of Children. In it Chapman explains how speaking your child’s love language helps him/her feel loved. There are five primary love languages and each one of us (kids and adults alike) is primarily fueled by one or two of them. When your relationship with your child is struggling, it is most likely because your child’s emotional love tank is not being filled. Once you understand which love language your child best falls in, you can be sure to meet their emotional needs in the way that they need and want.
The five love languages include: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Words of Affirmation and Quality Time.
I recently discovered that one of my daughter’s primary love languages is acts of service. If this is your child’s primary love language, your child might appreciate it when you do things for him. Not too long ago, I asked my daughter what makes her feel loved and she said she appreciates when I put away her laundry for her or straighten up her room for her. This surprised me but it helped me understand her emotional needs a little better. While I might be apt to not want to put her laundry away from her (because I’m teaching responsibility) perhaps I can help out from time to time, because it shows my daughter that I care about her!
What is your child’s primary love language? I highly recommend reading Chapman’s book and understanding these love languages to strengthen your relationship with your kid.
6. Give Space
Lastly, one of the most effective ways to connect with your kids is to actually give them some space! This can be one of the hardest practices to carry out. It is natural for a parent to want to know everything about our kids and their lives! But sometimes we learn more about our kids when we give them the space they need.
I used to barrage my kids with questions the second they walked in the door from school. However, I was usually unsuccessful in getting very many details. My kids are exhausted and overstimulated when they get home from school. They need a snack and some time to decompress! I find that when I just “be” with them in their space, my kids are more receptive later to talk.
We need to recognize that our kids are not all that different from us adults! I put in it perspective that I don’t always want to talk after a busy, hectic day! I just want to relax!
Also, I’ve learned to not focus on the tiny details on my kids’ lives but instead seek to understand how they are feeling. So instead of asking what they did every minute of their day including who they ate with, who they talked to, etc., I check in with how they are feeling and what their days were like. Usually the smaller details will come up naturally and sometimes they don’t. I’ve realized it is okay to not know about every little thing that goes on in their day!
No one ever tells you that parenting tweens and teens is so much harder than parenting little kids and babies! While we might all be winging it, we are also doing the best we can! What are some ways that you connect with your kids?
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