Monday, January 2, 2012

5 Ways to Connect With Your Teen Son/Daughter This Week

“I like the crunching snow,” he states as we walk in the dark. Streetlamps puddle light every block or so. Red, green, blue and white Christmas lights still twine around neighbors’ decks and shrubs, blinking at us.

The wind blows cold and scatters snow sequins at us, and I draw my black scarf higher on my cheeks. “Let’s take the wooded path since there are two of us,” I reason. We don’t normally walk alone down dark secluded paths.

At the bottom of the hill, surrounded by towering trees, we immediately halt in silence. The wind roars in the black branches above me, like ocean waves. Branches sway under a grey clouded moon, and I can hear the aged trunks rumbling as they move in the fierce wind. We linger in the wooded glen, just listening to the roars and creaks, and breathing in deep air. Then we continue our evening walk, laughing and talking as we go.  

As a mom of three kids, including a preschooler, I confess that being intentional about time with my kids is often hard. After a long day, it is so much easier to collapse on the couch with a movie at night, or slip into facebook and email mode on the computer, than to look for ways to invest in my kids. But I am seeing how quickly time passes—my oldest has just one more year of high school left, and he is often gone now at friends’ houses. My lanky daughter grows more willowy by the day, and can disappear into online chat with friends.

Being intentional about time with our kids is vital, and is always hugely rewarding when we do it. Creating memories with your family doesn’t need to be expensive or exhausting. Here are five tips that have worked for our family.

1.)    Car Trips = Captive Audiences. Crank the radio lower and start some conversations the next time you are in a vehicle shuttling between classes, gymnastics, or swim team. Then, just listen as your teen talks and shares his or her life. Occasionally ask questions, but don’t be afraid of some silence. A pause allows them to start their own topics. 

2.)    Physical Touch is still important. While snuggling on the couch isn’t as common now as when they were toddlers watching cartoons, physical affection is still very important and needed for teens. Back rubs, hand or foot massages, hair tousles, rough-housing and hugs are still great ways to say I love you

3.)    Join them in their hobbies and interests. Throughout the last month, my daughter has been filling us in on seaside fiascos and gelatinous water villains from a mermaid show that she has been following. Last night she and I cozied up on the floor with velvet pillows to watch the season finale. Find out what your teen is passionate about, ask them questions about it, have them teach you something, and join them. This could be a great way to get in shape and learn a new hobby too. We enjoy trying new family games. 

4.)    Go on a date. My children use coffeeshops against me, knowing that I am too easily talked into them, but we have great talks over their strawberry-banana smoothies. Life, friends, end-of-season-sports, relationship questions and more can come from these special times out.

5.)    Enjoy God-talks together. Pray together over meals, or spontaneously for sick friends or family, and for lost keys, sad days, etc. Tell your child what you have been reading in God’s word lately, and confess what you have been struggling with applying recently. Joyfully share cool things God is teaching you. Be quick to apologize, and to sincerely ask forgiveness.


Michelle @ Changed By The Maker said...

I think I'll have to keep this around for a few years -- until I am in desperate need! Actually, I keep praying I'm going to "grow into" teenagers! You sound like you have a good handle on it, and you're right, the time does go so quickly. There's really no time to waste! Thanks for the ideas.

jody said...

jen, this post prompted an hour long discussion between luke and i looking towards the teen years! Mostly nervous we won't be as good at it as we would like to be.:) Thanks for living it out and being a great example and thanks for the good advice!

Cheryl Barker said...

You're so right, Jennifer. The time goes by oh so fast. Your tips are great. I used many of them myself when my girls were growing up. All the best to you and your famiy!

Jennifer Dougan said...


I am so glad you enjoyed this post. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. You definitely do grow into having teens, one year at a time -- just like you grow into their school subjects too. Aiye! It is a fun process. Enjoy them.


Jennifer Dougan said...

It was such a treat to hang out with you all this weekend. I am glad that you and Luke had an hour long discussion about teens after reading my post. Raising teens is a fun adventure. We sure pray a lot for wisdom too. :) I enjoy watching you raise your girls. You do a great job at it!


Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Cheryl,

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate hearing from you, a veteran mom, the confirmation of these things too, since your kids are raised and seem to enjoy being home so much too. Thanks.

Have a great week.


Angel said...

Such a great list! I can feel your heart for your kids through your words. My favorite time with my 6th grade son is in the car alone with him. In that space, he will talk and talk and talk. I love it. Finding time with all four of my growing kids is a challenge, but so so so worth it!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Angel,

Thank you. Yes, those times in the car are great times of hearing our kids' hearts, huh? I'm so glad you and your 6th grade son get those times too. What do you like to do with your other kids?

Nice to meet you,