Do you sometimes feel that you are losing the connection with your teen? Some simple solutions can help you reconnect and strengthen the bond... it may be as simple as making time together a part of your routine!
Make a date... with your teenager! A private dinner out with your teen is a terrific way to get some one-on-one time and share what's going on in both of your lives. It gives you both time away from household distractions to talk, laugh and catch up with each other. The atmosphere is more relaxed than a private conversation at home, which often sets off warning bells with the teen and seems more of a venue for lectures. This is about relaxing, talking and opening up to each other over a shared meal.
You don't have to go far, but a road trip with just you and your teen can build some great memories and establish with the idea that you now consider them to be a young adult. Try a weekend getaway to a beach or ski resort, a bed and breakfast, or even camping in a national park! Keep in mind the kind of trip the teen will enjoy, and allow them to be involved in the planning. You'll have plenty of time to relax and talk together -- in the car and at your destination.
Get the entire family together for a night to create a family values document. Brainstorm a list of the things that are important to you as individuals and as a family. This might include telling the truth, letting go of resentments, being considerate of each other's feelings and apologizing when you are in the wrong. This type of discussion lets everyone in the family feel that they are part of something larger than themselves. Make sure there is something meaningful in the document for each member of the family and have everyone sign it. Explain that this is a covenant you will all try to live by.
Ask your teen what kind of parent they want to be. Encourage them to speak up about ways they will be similar to you, and areas where they think they will be different. Don't get angry or defensive during this conversation -- look for things you might be able to change in your parenting style based on your teen's perceptions.
Spend an evening together watching home videos of the family or organizing photographs. This is a good opportunity to talk about the favorite memories your teen has, and will give you insight into making more of the happiest ones together in the future.
No matter what you do, family counselor Donna Arnold says spending time together is the key. "Consistently spending time with pre-teens and teens gives them an opportunity to talk in a relaxed atmosphere, and helps establish a pattern of open communication with the parent."
Having casual conversations with your teen will reassure them that you're truly engaged and listening to what they need to say. Arnold considers this a "building block" that pays some long-term dividends in the parent-teen relationship.
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