This post: 6 Ways to Connect with Your Teen: Step into Their World
When my kids were young, finding ways to connect with them was easy. Whether I read them their favorite book at bedtime, played with them during bath time, or took them to the park and pushed them on the swing or tossed a ball around, I always found ways to stay close and connected.
Fast forward a few years and now that my kids are teenagers, there’s a huge generational gap that threatens to create a wide wedge between us.
When I was a teenager, life was so much different than the life my kids are leading. And, as much as I want to be included in my kids’ lives and really connect with them, sometimes, I find it hard. And, there’s been plenty of times I felt fairly out of touch with what my kids deem as “cool.”
But what I’ve learned as a parent of teens is that you don’t have to be “cool” or up on all the latest trends, movies, Netflix series, music or fashion trends to connect with your kids and create an amazing, meaningful bond. (In fact, according to a lot of teens I’ve spoken with, they’d rather not have parents whose goal in life is to be cool). And, you don’t have to personally relate to your kids in every aspect of their lives to have a close bond with them.
What you do need is a willingness to step into their world so they can share with you, laugh with you, and perhaps even teach you about things they love and that matter to them.
It’s the best-kept secret of all… if you’re looking for easy and fun ways to connect with your teen, you have to be willing to step into their world.
6 Ways to Connect with Your Teen: Step into Their World
Watch What They Watch on TV
I lost control of the TV remote a long time ago – at least when my kids are watching television. The truth is, it’s been a conscious decision on my part. When my kids plop down on the couch with a snack and a drink ready to dive into their new favorite Netflix series or a movie they heard about that they’re dying to watch, I want “in” on that!
It’s a chance for me to get a glimpse into my kids’ evolving likes, it gives me quality time with them to hang out (even if we don’t talk a whole lot) and it offers a casual launchpad for future conversations.
The next time your teen is watching television, sit down and watch whatever they’re watching with them. Get invested in the Netflix series they’re slightly addicted to. Watch the documentary that interests them. It’s a great way to spend casual time with your kids doing something they love.
Listen to the Music They Love
Not long ago, my son and I were on a flight and, after digging through my carry-on bag, I realized I left my earbuds at home. Being the trooper he is, my son offered to “share” one of his earbuds with me. It sounded like a really good idea at the time until I realized my son is into rap music. I, on the other hand, could go the rest of my life and not listen to another rap song. Still, I listened.
I asked questions – “Hey, who sings this?” “Is this your favorite song?” “Who’s your favorite rapper?” I showed an interest in his interest and I made him feel special by proving to him that his mom cared about what he cared about.
Connecting with our kids is all about finding a common ground. And, since there’s a good chance they won’t be taking the time to find out why we love Yoga, cooking shows, decorating (or anything else we’re into), we have to make the first move and step into their world.
Get to Know Their Friends
This is a BIG one. Of all the ways to connect with your teen, this might just top the list. By the time our kids hit the teen years, so often, our kids’ friends become their world. To them, their friends aren’t simply friends… they’re family. Whether you love your teen’s friends or perhaps you’re not totally fond of your teen’s choice in buddies, get to know them.
Encourage your teen to invite their friends over for a BBQ, a movie night or a slumber party. Of course, you don’t want to completely infringe on their time together when they’re over, just slip in short conversations when the opportunity presents itself. Keep it light. Keep it casual. (No teenager wants to be drilled about where they want to go to college, what they’re going to major in or how they’re doing in Calculus.)
The better you know your teen’s friends, the more it offers you and your teen things to talk about and it helps you connect with them through people who matter to them.
Find Out What They Love and Love it, Too
If your son is passionate (okay, slightly addicted) to a particular video game, find out what he loves about it and play it with him occasionally. If your daughter’s favorite pastime is thrifting, go thrifting with her. If your teen is reading a book, read it, too.
If they love hiking or crafting or building things or basketball or volunteering at the animal shelter, do it with them. If your teen loves smoothies or Mexican food or juicy burgers and fries, ask them out on a “date” to indulge in their favorite food.
You get the picture…
Whether we realize it or not, our kids really do like us! In fact, a recent study found that 70% of kids want to spend more time with their parents. It’s just that they want to spend time with us doing things that interest them. Bottom line, find out what your teen loves and love it, too. Then, one day, when your teen looks back, they’ll realize that what you loved the most was spending time with them.
Connect on Social Media
I was never a big fan of Snapchat, but I am now! I’m on it daily because my three kids created a “Sibling Squad” Snapchat group. My husband, me and our three kids send each other several Snaps every day. My son sent one yesterday of him sitting in his Economics class in college. My daughter sent one of her at work and I send silly Snaps of me working or with our cats or making dinner.
Instead of watching your teen stare at their phone all day, get in on the action with them. Watch silly TikTok videos together, send them funny quotes or memes via text, follow them on Instagram and “like” their posts (if they won’t freak out) or create a family-only group on social media. Connect with your teen on their terms, in their world. And, since social media is a huge part of their world, it’s a great place to stay connected and close.
Share Your Own Experiences
Recently, my son in college shared something he and his friends did – something that turned out to be one of the best nights he’s had in college so far. My son and a bunch of girls and guys hung out on a rooftop patio overlooking the city of Atlanta until dawn talking – about life, their future, relationships, current events (plenty to talk about there), and just about everything else.
After he finished telling me, I shared with him how my friends and I did the exact same thing when I was in college. To this day, it’s one of my fondest memories of college. That one shared experience brought my son and me closer together. “Wow, mom. I didn’t picture you as a rooftop kind of girl,” he said.
Share a few relatable memories or stories with your kids. Not only will it give your kids a glimpse into your life when you were their age, it will also let them know that you remember what it felt like to be young and carefree.
If you’re finding it difficult to connect, relate and be close to your teenager, look at how and where they spend most of their time. Their interests, passions, hobbies, and friends are a great place to start! It sounds too simple, but connecting with your teen is as easy as jumping into their world.