As you may have seen on my social media posts, my oldest turned 13 last week. I am now officially a mom of a teen and tween. Though middle school and early high school have always been a favorite age for me professionally I’m now deep in the trenches as a mom and it’s not always sunshine and roses around here! I’ve found myself wondering at 5:00pm if my teen was even home, since she tends to sort of hide out in her room. 😊 I’m realizing that staying connected to her will be a challenge and something as a mom I have to be actively committed to. Here is what has worked for us in our home and throughout my years connecting to this age group at camp and school.
1. Build or strengthen your relationship by understanding their passions. What is your teen or tween into? Sports? Music? Dance? Do your research and get in the know! I once had a camper who was all about hockey. Did I care about hockey? Nope! Did I know anything about hockey? Nope! I did my research and I let her teach me. Showing that I cared about what she cared about was vital in building our relationship. Find a sporting event to go to together, enjoy music, watch “So You Think You Can Dance” together… I’m listening to a lot of music with my teen currently that in my mind doesn’t even qualify as music but if it gets us talking, it’s worth it.
2. Figure out what their “love language” is! For my teen she is really motivated by her sweet tooth. So for her birthday we invited a small group over and made candy sushi (directions on my Instagram account @insta.faab!) Not only did this thrill her and her buddies, but we spent days researching, planning and shopping together for this project.
3. Build your own- anything! I find that build your own pizza, our New Year’s chocolate “bar” and the like are novel and interesting enough to get her out of the room and join in the fun. Bonus: these activities work for multiple age levels and are great to get siblings engaged in together.
4. Structure their “household responsibilities” to be interactive. As you may have read in my other blogs or on my Instagram page... find some great blog posts below!
I’ve been constantly tweaking my new household responsibility system in my house. I always pick something for my teen that includes an “interactive” component. Examples: helping to cook dinner, set the table, clear the table. I am always in the kitchen during these tasks so it’s another opportunity to connect and chat.
5. Get to know their friends! As you may have already read about, my oldest had her Bat Mitzvah this year, so at first I was really resistant to having any type of friend celebration of her birthday. However, my smart hubby reminded me that any opportunity we had to spend time with her friends and get to know them was a good one! Getting to know her friends has given me great “talking points” when I want to get her to look up from her phone and talk to me!
6. Limit screen time. Yep, this one is really tough! But as of now my teen has similar screen time limits as her sibs (I’m sure this will be a continuous conversation as she gets closer and closer to high school), especially a strict one for social media. This gives her more opportunity to be bored and leave her room 😊
7. Let things revolve around them on occasion. Yes, it’s more automatic sometimes to think about my younger kids first when planning family occasions, outings, vacations. I’ve turned this habit around and now my husband and I are actively looking for activities that pique her interest.
8. Starbucks. No need to expand on this one too much, they love it, take them there, they will thank you and then get a portrait mode picture of their cup for snap chat.
9. Tag Team. If you are lucky enough to have a wonderful parenting partner like I do, or super involved grandparents, aunts and uncles… Encourage their relationship with all of them. Sometimes I get a bit frustrated or even jealous when my teen will willingly and happily talk politics with my husband but won’t give me the time of day, however, at least she’s connected to an adult that is a positive role model.
10. Keep experimenting. The biggest take away from me is that the best way to be a “good parent” is to keep trying, because what works this week may be useless the next!
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