Our teens pull away and no longer want to share as much as themselves with us. It’s normal and natural but that doesn’t make it any less painful for parents who still long to bond with their children.
The teen years are a time when we want in on their lives more than ever before, and we realize very quickly the more we request to do things like sit down and chat so we get a peek into their world, the harder it can become for them to let us in. I know my teenage son feels like this is too much pressure and he shuts down.
But there are some great ways to bond with your teen without making them feel like they are attending a job interview; things you can do together and reap the benefits of quality time spent together, even if you aren’t talking much.
1. Cooking and baking together
I used to do this with my mom, and now I do it with my kids. If they request a special meal we go to the grocery store, get the ingredients and prepare it together. The pride they feel after making it is priceless.
2. Go to the movies
Now that your kids are older, even if you don’t share the same taste in movies, you can still appreciate the things they’d like to see and vise versa. I love romantic comedies and my kids are old enough to watch them with me now. They love action movies, and as long as I have my candy and Diet Coke, sitting through anything with them is amazing. Especially since we can talk about it on the way home.
3. Rent movies from when you were their age
My kids love the Back to the Future and Karate Kid movies– The Goonies is another favorite. Watching movies from your childhood and sharing the story about when you first watched it with your kids shows your age but and will definitely make them laugh.
4. Take the long way home
I constantly do this with my kids. If I pick them up from school or a friend’s house and there’s just one of them, we take the long way home. It’s amazing what just a few extra moments in the car alone can do to a relationship.
5. Have a yard work day
You may be met with moaning and groaning at first but getting outside and helping each other with raking, pruning, or gardening has led to some pretty deep conversations between me and my teens. One of them even plants his own garden every year. There is something so satisfying about picking up sticks and getting the yard raked and mulched. Our teens like to work hard, see results, and get praised. Plus, taking them out for ice cream afterward is a huge bonus for all– more bonding time.
6. Bust out their baby pictures
Sitting together and flipping through old pictures, be it on your phone or a photo book, is a great way to get everyone in the room feeling sentimental. My three kids (especially my daughter) feel pretty excited every time I reach for the baby albums.
7. Read the same book
Maybe they are reading a special book for school they are struggling to get through or they love. If you are a reader, or just a skimmer, a shared book leads to a discussion.
8. Tell them funny things about their baby days
When our teens are feeling down or sad, nothing can get them smiling like telling something sweet they used to do or say. The may act like they don’t want to hear it, but who doesn’t love hearing special stories about themselves?
9. Help them clean their room
Full disclosure here: I don’t actually help them, but I do stand in the middle of the room holding a trash bag open telling them what to toss. No one is a huge fan of putting a room back together when it looks like a tornado hit. While it’s my kid’s mess, and they have to clean it, everyone can use some company when trying to get through an overwhelming task.
I know it’s easier to grab things online and many teens are very specific, and there are lots of kids who enjoy getting things but don’t love the actual shopping part. My daughter loves shopping while my sons don’t. I take her out alone so we can take our time, and keep it quick with my boys. We always do have fun, even if it only takes a half hour. There is certainly more getting connected in that half hour then there would be if I did the shopping on line.
Speaking of shopping, even if you aren’t going to buy anything, browsing around flea markets or thrift shops is a great way to spend time together. There’s always something interesting to explore that can lead to a meaningful conversation. Like the time we were at an antique shop and I started tearing up when I saw the exact rotary phone I had as a kid. I think it was the first time my kids had ever seen one in real life.
Bonding with our teens doesn’t have to mean a deep conversation. Exchanging a few laughs or sharing some good food is all it takes to feel connected again.