It may feel like a kick in the stomach that first night when your new teen no longer wants you to read her that nighttime book or decides it is no longer cool to spend a Friday night watching TV with mom and dad. It is normal to be in denial that your sweet child who now yearns to always be at your side would ever switch personalities. Although that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde elixir we call hormones may well be in full swing, it is not the end of the world.
Involvement means to be connected on a personal or emotional level. An interesting synonym for involve is the word embrace. This is an exciting and often frightening time when your teen is exploring who she wants to be. What you are really trying to do is embrace who your teen is as well as who he is not.
There are still ways to spend time and become more involved with your teen without threats, punishments, or tying them to a chair.
1. Change the nighttime ritual — don’t execute it
Your teen may no longer want a bedtime story but it doesn’t mean your evenings together are over. Sit on the edge of his or her bed and just talk. Avoid lecturing or giving advice unless they specifically ask for it. Create a safe zone where any topic is up for grabs without fear of judgment. Be willing to stay up late and have plenty of toothpicks on hand the next day to prop open your eyes at work.
2. Don’t underestimate the time in the car
Driving to and from practices, school, work, dates or shopping are great opportunities to catch up with what your teen is thinking or doing. Avoid wasting these golden nuggets of time by instituting a no iPod, cell phone or radio use. Don’t take the ensuing withering stares or simmering silences too personally. A friend used to say, “They’ll get happy in the same pants they got mad in.” Be patient and diligent.
3. Quality time doesn’t always equate to meaningful conversations
The goal is to spend time with them as a whole person. Laying on the lawn together and staring at the stars in silence is still impactful.
4. Go shopping
This may be more of an interest for the daughter but even a quick trip to the mall with a son can have value. He may opt to try out the newest game at GameStop rather than the newest perfume at Macys. The goal is to be involved in his or her interests, not necessarily to check a to-do box.
5. Go to a movie he or she is interested in
Some of the best dialogue the two of you engage in later down the road may be from that flick you watched together.
6. Become involved with their passion
Drill team may not be your cup of tea but the sun might possibly rise and set to it according to your daughter. Be at all of her performances, drive her to her practices, and take her shopping for that new pair of tennis shoes she needs for the next practice. Listen to her chatter about ranks, points, squads, competitions, and camp. Get involved in the booster club. You may not feel like you are making much of a difference in the world, but you become the world to your son or daughter.
7. Keep meal times sacred
It may feel like a lot of work up front between preparing a meal and getting everyone to the table at the same time, but the payoff is more than worth any effort made.
There is something unique and magical about sitting down to eat together — at a table and not in front of the TV. It brings a family closer together. Talking, discussing, sharing, and yes, even airing the occasional argument has value. If you could only follow one suggestion this would be the one.
8. Offer to make them a sandwich … or cookies, or popcorn
The quickest way to almost anyone’s heart is through his or her stomach. You are showing that you love them through impromptu, undeserved service and appealing to their constantly hungry side. They may even offer to help. Then sit down with them while they enjoy the fruits of your labor and catch up on each other’s day.
9. Work on a home project with them
This signals to them that you trust their skills and input. The final product may not be as perfect as you like but your relationship with your child will be around longer than the physical project.
10. Volunteer together
In the beginning your teen may grumble but usually when it’s all said and done they will never forget the memory of the service or of being with and watching you serve. Try volunteermatch.org for great volunteer opportunities in your area.
11. Listen to his or her music together — without earplugs or cotton balls!
You may be very pleasantly surprised enough to even add some new tunes to your library. Music art is constantly changing and your teen will usually be on the cusp of new and exciting sounds. They will be so thrilled to think of passing something real and powerful on to youfor a change.
12. Plan a weekly or monthly family night to play board games or just hang out
The sillier the game the better. The fastest way to get rolling on the floor with laughter is through a game of Charades.
This list is just a springboard for becoming more involved with your teen. Some personalities are more challenging than others but every single one is worth embracing.`