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News Every Day |

How to Bond With Your Tween (or Teen!) This Summer

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It’s a scenario every parent of a tween or teen is familiar with: your kid is imploring you to drive them to meet up with their friends. “Please, Mom! Please! I’ll make sure my room is clean!” If they wear you down, you might say yes and haul them across town. Your child opens the passenger door. You say, “I love you! Have fun! And …” But before you can remind them to be safe or make good choices, the door slams, and your kiddo scampers off to join the cluster of fellow tweens or teens.

Parenting kids who are 10 to 18 (or so) is no joke, especially in summer. School is out, and many tweens and teens are either sleeping, snacking, complaining, or begging you for some cash or to be their taxi driver. Your sweet little elementary child is long-gone, evolved into this new being. If you’re like me, at times you feel lost. It’s possible you might also sense you don’t know who your child is anymore. You also know that you’re losing a lot of the influence (and control) you had when they were younger. If you have a fairly typical parent-child dynamic, you often feel like adversaries, not allies.

Summer is certainly a challenging time, but it can also be an opportunity to grow closer to your tween or teen. The days are longer and schedules have changed. Perhaps, instead of viewing this as a season you have to white-knuckle through, you make up your mind that you’ll take advantage of these few months. Here are practical yet meaningful ways to bond with your tween or teen while they’ve got a little extra time.

Watch What They Want

One way I’ve found myself bonding with my older two kids, who are 14 and 12, is to hop into bed or on the couch and watch a show they enjoy. In fact, I’ve introduced them to some of my favorite throwbacks. Together, we’ve consumed bowls of popcorn while watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sister, Sister, Family Matters, and Full House. I’ve also watched “big kid” movies they enjoy, without their younger siblings tagging along. Now you might wonder how you can bond while silently watching television, and I get that, but surprisingly, it has worked. They are physically close to me, there’s no bickering over rules, and usually everyone is in a great mood. Plus, sometimes shows can present openings to casually discuss things they might not bring up otherwise.

Take a Hike

Bilateral movement is well-known in the mental health community to be regulating because it activates both sides of the brain. Shooting hoops, riding bikes, hiking, or walking with your tween or teen, while conversing (even if it’s just playful banter), can be a great way to discuss any challenges they face, questions they have, or even the good things in life. If you and your teen or tween are at a crossroad, it’s easier to discuss when you’re moving alongside each other. Plus, fresh air and sunshine — when possible — is never a bad idea.

Go On a “Date”

Stepping outside the house to do something together that your child enjoys puts them in a good (and hopefully conversational) mood. Maybe you visit their favorite store, try the new ice cream shop, grab their favorite fast food and eat it at a park pavilion, see a movie, explore a new hiking trail, or attend a concert. There are options for every budget. There’s also the car ride there and back, providing time to chat (some of the best chats happen in the car!).

Play a Game or Do an Activity

There’s a reason play and art therapies exist. Playfulness, creativity, and competitiveness can be engaging and take the pressure off everyone to discuss big and heavy topics. However, these also leave room for harder conversations. You and your child can even try something new together, such as an art class, taking up pickleball (the latest sports trend), or visiting a pottery studio to make something for your home. At-home options include baking or cooking, or taking on a home project (like painting their room that horrible blue they’ve been begging you for).

Tuck Them In

When our kids are little, bedtime is a huge ordeal. For our younger kids, bedtime is a routine that easily takes a half-hour, if not longer, between brushing teeth, reading a book, chatting, saying prayers, shutting the lights out, and getting them (another) drink of water. Older kids can get themselves ready and plop into bed. Just because they are older, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy or benefit from us tucking them in. I have found that my tween and teen are the most conversational at bedtime, when it’s quieter, when their little siblings are already in bed, and they are the most comfortable. If you and your child struggle to have conversations, buy conversation cards (like these!), which can be a huge help in coming up with topics that tweens and teens will actually talk about — and discovering each other’s fears, favorites, memories, and future goals.

Have a Meeting

Now you might be wondering how in the world a meeting would help you connect with your older kid. But when you think about tweens and teens and the things they want, it makes sense. They desire more control over their own lives, yet they are almost always at the mercy of parents to help them do that. After all, parents have the money, the transportation, and a lot of the power. We started having weekly meetings with our two oldest kids. They are free to voice concerns, ask for privileges, and make suggestions. Having a set time and date helps everyone come to the table prepared, as well as know what to expect.

Enjoy Social Media

Though we don’t allow our teens and tweens to have their own social media at this time, sometimes we have made videos or taken pictures together to share on our (adult) social media with our kids’ consent. Letting our kids teach us a new dance, experimenting with a (safe) social media challenge, or laughing at a trending sound bite can be a way to bond. They also show us funny YouTube videos they’ve enjoyed.

There are many ways to bond with a tween or teen, but we have to get creative. Carving out time isn’t always easy — but certainly, spending one-on-one time with our older kids has many benefits. We’re building a solid relationship based on trust, respect, and yes, fun. We’re also creating balance, since a lot of the parent-teen or -tween relationship can be difficult. I hope the bonding we’re investing in today means a continually-healthy relationship for all our tomorrows.

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