You read the title right. You can have fun with your own teenager. Many articles encourage family time and family game night. They seem to focus on creating quality time for a family with young kids. Just because your kids outgrow CandyLand and Chutes and Ladders doesn’t meant that they outgrow the need for quality time with their parents.
The older your children get, the more challenges they face. The more they want to withdraw from their family and exert their own independence. Part of this is growing up, but keeping the lines of communication open with your teenager is crucial. If you will allow them to grow into their post adolescent selves, and approach them as young adults, knowing they are just kids, you will be able to maintain a sense of family, and hopefully, avoid some of the problems teens “find” during their teenage years.
Keep family game night. Don’t stop just because your kids get older. Change the games, let them choose. Some of the most fun we have as a family is playing card games : Phase 10, Uno, Poker for Jolly Ranchers. We still play Life, Monopoly, and Scrabble. The great thing about playing games when the kids are older is that you can play competitively. Having game night with teens will open doors for conversation. It will break down barriers as everyone relaxes, lets down their guard, laughs, argues and plays together.
Don’t force game night with teenagers. It will never happen if you demand it. Be spontaneous. Catch them during a down time. As parents, we have the responsibility to make time for our teens. Our schedule must become flexible with their schedule. It is no different than having younger kids. The difference is the age of the child. You are the adult, adjust your behavior if you want them to adjust theirs.
Some parents forget their teenager is still a child, and abandon them to their friends and school to raise. These are the same parents who turn around one day and wonder. “Who is that person living in my house?”, because it isn’t the same sweet and innocent child they raised.
As kids grow older, a great way to spend time with them is through sports. Many young ladies play softball, golf, or are cheerleaders. Teenage boys still love baseball, football, and soccer. Don’t over impose in their time and activities, but don’t abandon them either. Attend their games. Let them know you care. They need to know that they are important to you. If they don’t feel that their family cares, or accepts them, they will find someone who will. A little bit of your time may keep them from walking a much harder road.
If your teenager doesn’t get out and play sports encourage them to get outside. Spending time indoors all the time, on the computer, playing video games, or watching T.V. can lead to depression, antisocial behaviors, and trouble on the Internet. In my opinion, we all need a little sunshine and fresh air. There isn’t anything wrong with computers and video games, but it is so easy for our lives to begin to revolve around our computer and on-line community. Don’t forget the real world is where your teen will one day have to fend for herself. You may want to help her venture out of her virtual world and into the real world.
By the same token, sit down one day and learn how to play XBOX or PSP2. Find out what your kids are playing, who they are talking to on-line. You have that right. You are the parent. They live in your home. The key to getting involved with them is to spend time familiarizing yourself with their life and culture. They know yours by now, at least they should. Find out who they are becoming, and what they are really like.
Try going somewhere your teen wants to go, like the mall or batting cages. You don’t have to run around like you are their best friend. You are their parent, but once in a while take the time to run them to the mall. Hang out in the food court if you have to. Try to spend time with your teen without critiquing or criticizing them. I have two teenagers, I know it is hard, but sometimes they need to see, hear, and feel unconditional love. If your love always comes with strings attached, they will find someone who will love them with no strings attached.
I just said to get out, but it is still great to watch a movie together. Keep in mind, your teenager probably doesn’t appreciate animated films anymore. Even a PG film may seem a little cheesy to them. My 17 year old son and I have completely different tastes in movies. However, if I will take the time to watch a movie with him, he is full of movie suggestions that we will both enjoy. It always surprises me how much effort he will put into spending the time together. He does the same thing with his Dad, although picking movies they both like is a lot easier when I’m not involved.
A few more quick suggestions that you may not have thought of go fishing. Yeah, it’s time they bait their own hook. Go canoing or tubing. Give them some leeway and try not to keep the leash too tight when you are out together. Go to a pottery shop together. Give them a chance to work on a piece of pottery as art. Take them to a concert they enjoy. (Hint: Sneak Smith and Wesson earplugs in your pocket.) Go to the bookstore or library together and talk about your favorite authors.
You may be thinking my teenager will never do that. No, probably not right away if they aren’t used to your time and attention. They will suspect your motives. Keep at it, gently, over time, and they will realize your motive is to spend time with them because they are valuable and important individuals. You may be very surprised at what your teenager is willing to share with you and do with you if you give them the time and opportunity. If they think work, T.V., or your friends are more important than them, you have a long way to go. The good news is you can make it happen.
There are a lot of things you can do with your teenager, and I think the greatest part is that you can talk to them like young adults. You can give them more privileges and responsibilities. Teenagers are just children walking around in larger, awkward bodies, trying to figure out how to be adults. You be the one to help them figure it out. You may discover things you don’t like and find things in your teenagers life that conflict with your family values. Don’t fly off the handle. Take time to think about what you want to talk about with your teenager, and how you want to say it. Never call them out in front of their friends, or siblings. If you want to crush your teen’s self-esteem and push them farther away bawl them out in front of others. If you want to encourage them to grow, mature, and change behaviors talk to them one on one, reasonably. Sometimes our teenagers act irrationally because we approach them irrationally.
Sometimes you will have to draw the line between giving them privileges, and being a parent; making tough decisions and saying no. It is okay to tell them “no” once and a while, even if everyone else is doing it. We seem to have forgotten that sometimes our kids are waiting to see if we will pull them back. It’s called testing you, just like they did when they were two. Do you love them enough to set boundaries? Do you love them enough to say no?
Teenagers are great. I love my boys. We have fun and laugh a lot. Humor diffuses some of the most intense situations. Sometimes they get on my nerves, and I would like to wring their neck. I have to remember, who is the child and who is the adult. It is my job to keep things in check. All too soon they will face the world, responsibilities, and decisions on their own. Their father and I must prepare them now, while they are in the safety of our home and care to make responsible decisions, become self-sufficient adults, and good citizens who contribute to their community.