If you are parenting a tween, you are probably aware how easily the kids are suddenly just too busy even for you. They are likely spending significantly more time with their peers. While they may be less dependent than the elementary school days, it is an important season of parenting to be intentional in ways to connect with them.
While their social life is important, the following tips may help strengthen bonds between family members:
1. Throw down like a top chef. Trying out a new recipe is an effective way to bond whether your collective culinary attempts are a disaster or not. My own sons loved to help make yeast breads or bagels, and because of the rising time, they lingered in the kitchen much longer than if we simply toasted waffles. A double bonus: 1. It is hard to be cranky when the whole house smells like heavenly fresh bread; 2. Baking skills are a tasty addition to their life skills resume.
2. Make the posse feel welcome. This is one of the surefire ways to see more of your kids at home. Frequently, the presence of their friends loosens them up and better facilitates certain discussions than if you were alone, so take advantage. Also, you will learn more about your tween’s friends and feel more informed and in the loop.
3. Share your favs. Take turns choosing a film to watch which will give you an opportunity to share your favorite movies or actors they may otherwise never see.
4. Remind them of the past. Tweens and teens love to hear about funny things they said and did when they were little. The stories within families never get old and often trigger more reminiscing and memories you may have forgotten. Laugh your guts out.
5. Laugh out loud. Exchange funny videos and links online. My kids have introduced me to some of the most hilarious videos only kids their age could discover. Laughing together is sweet relief from all the inescapable daily nagging.
6. Dine together unplugged. This can be nearly impossible as you and your tweens head in different directions for the gym, lessons and sports, but it is important to carve out the time. Don’t worry if eating dinner together isn’t often possible. If everyone is available for a long leisurely Saturday morning breakfast, go for it. Think about allowing them to take turns choosing the restaurant and insist that everyone unplug all technology.
7. Inquire about highs and lows. Since adolescents are notorious for their grunting and mono-syllabic responses, regularly ask them to report on their high (the best thing that happened all day) and their low (the worst). It is as healthy for them to reflect on these experiences as it is for you to be aware of them.
8. Create memories between holidays. Do not wait for a holiday or birthday to be concerned about special moments. After all, tomorrow is not promised. Light candles and play fun music on a Tuesday night when it’s just spaghetti on the menu. Bake something special on a random night, plating it creatively like a chic restaurant. Surprise them on a weeknight by announcing you are all going bowling. Treat them to a one-on-one lunch at their favorite spot.
9. Compose love notes. It can be difficult to find the right moment to express what is on your heart, but tweens need to know how much you cherish them. Take the time to record your gratitude for them and leave the message on their pillow. They may never mention it, but it will have an impact.
10. Be a road warrior. Sometimes the best way to re-connect with family members is by putting some miles between you and where the daily grind happens. Even if it is a day trip, be creative about making the road trip more pleasant, and do set ground rules, i.e. no arguing or discussing sore subjects like grades and school work.
In the blink of an eye, tweens become teens, and all of these tips are relevant to that stage of young adulthood as well!
Michele Ranard, M.Ed., has two children, a master’s in counseling and a blog at www.hellolovelychild.blogspot.com.
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