Bonding with teens 101

Have you noticed it’s tough getting penciled into a teen’s social calendar, because it’s often triple-booked? If there is an adolescent living under your roof, then you know it takes a little effort to not drift apart.

Meg, a good friend of mine, is learning to snowboard just to find common ground with her rad kids — which not only affects her vacation choices, but keeps her body in shape! Another friend inspired me when she recently said, “I’m not that interested in golf, but my teen is, so I’m taking lessons, so we’ll be able to share it even when I’m old.”

Come Together

It’s as important as ever to make efforts to connect. Sometimes I feel all I do is service my teens and watch them disappear with the contents of my wallet! In their defenses, they feel I frequently use my time with them primarily to lecture. So here are 10 tips for parents to create more positive connections with teens:

1. Invite them to bake: Trying a new recipe can be a riot even if your lack of culinary skills is legendary. Think of the drama and the memories! My kids help to bake yeast breads or bagels, and because of the rising time, it means they linger longer than if we were simply throwing in a pizza. It is difficult to feel moody when the whole house smells like heaven.

2. Reminisce: Whether they roll their eyes or not, teens love to hear about precious, naughty, or funny things they did as children. Keep telling the old stories and laugh at yourself when they bring up the moments that were maybe not your finest.

3. Follow a sports team together: Try to have everyone home for the big game or match on TV and, if possible, see your team in person.

4. Shop online: It will be impossible for you not to learn a ton about your child as you both surf his favorite stores’ websites and hunt for sales. Ask about bands and/or causes he would like to support (teens are huge supporters of non-profits that sell merchandise to fund a cause).

5. In a word, bacon: Truly. My sons come running at the smell of bacon. I’m not clogging their arteries every day, and I don’t just serve it for breakfast. Teens show up for pork fat. They just do. So share some.

6. Submit to YouTube: Your teens are dying to introduce you to hilarious videos that only kids their age can discover. Laughing together is sweet relief from all the inescapable daily nagging.

7. Welcome their buds: This is one of the best ways to see more of your kids. Frequently, the presence of their friends can loosen them up and better facilitate certain discussions than if you were alone, so take advantage.

8. Hit the road: Sometimes to re-connect, you’ve got to put miles between your family and the daily grind. Even if it is a day trip, make the commute special and set ground rules they’ll love, i.e. no lectures, arguing, or discussing sore subjects like grades and school work.

9. Create moments: Don’t wait for a birthday — light candles and play weird music on a Wednesday when it’s just spaghetti on the menu. Bake something decadent on a random night, plating it creatively like a restaurant. Surprise them with bowling on a weeknight. Take them for a one-on-one lunch at their favorite restaurant.

10. Write a love note: Ever feel tenderness springing up, but they’re not home to absorb it? Write it down. Express gratitude for them and leave the note on their pillow. Even if they don’t mention it, it matters.

Michele Ranard has a husband, two teens, and a Master’s in counseling.