We recently did a survey of our Mumlyfers and one thing was immediately clear: we are all looking for ways to build our relationship with teens and tweens.
Adolescents are not the easiest creatures to feel close to. Actually, they are sensitive, prickly, self-centred, know-it-all gaslighters who are LUCKY we still adore them. Don’t get me wrong, they can also be sweet, kind, thoughtful, generous, creative, uplifting and loving. Sometimes.
It’s no secret that my kids and I clash wildly and often. I have not raised mice (nor would I want to) (actually, I wouldn’t mind mice while they are home with me, but all-conquering lions when they leave home, but still). The fact that we have a fiery, bit-yelly, I’m-totally-over-you-sometimes relationship, doesn’t mean we’re not close.
Read this too: A quick guide to connecting with tweens and teens
My kids know they can talk to me about anything and everything (lord knows, it would appear to be the case). That the only things I judge harshly and often are hygiene and posture. And that I’ve got their backs, no matter what.
We can all work on ways to build relationships with teens and tweens, though. I researched high and wide to find what works best to improve our connection. Here are three proven everyday ways to welcome older kids back into family life.
Build a rock-solid relationship with teens and tweens
1. Eat together
Eating together has been found to be one of the most important things you can do to keep your kid on an even keel. Kids who eat with the family on a regular basis are less likely to get into drugs, less likely to wag school, less likely to be overweight, and more likely to get good grades. They’re also less likely to be assholes, but that’s not scientifically proven (* as far as I know).
Which is all well and good, but what if your family doesn’t get the opportunity to eat dinner together every night?
• Can you do one regular night a week?
• Can you make it breakfast, instead of dinner?
• Can you do a Sunday lunch?
It seems that if eating together is this important, it’s worthwhile looking for ways to bring the whole family together for a meal. As often as you can.
2. Devices down
It goes without saying that at these bonding family meals, no-one’s phone is joining in the fun. Dinner time can be just one of the times when you all agree to down phones. Other times might be in the morning before school, after dinner, right before bed, or for full days at a time. It’s up to you to decide what works best for your family.
Setting clear boundaries with your tweens and teens around screen time is crucial for multiple reasons. Keeping them involved in family life is one of the most important ones.
This should help: Our strategy and rules for screen time with teens
“Children’s absorption in technology, from texting to playing video games, does by their very nature limit their availability to communicate with their parents,” writes Dr Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World. “One study found that when the working parent arrived home after work, his or her children were so immersed in technology that the parent was greeted only 30 percent of the time and was totally ignored 50 percent of the time.”
Works both ways
It’s a two-way street, of course. Getting our own heads out of our phones is just as critical for being present in family life. Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, says, “”It gives kids the message that they’re not interesting to you and whoever is on the phone matters more and that’s not the way we ever want our kids to feel.”
If you would like to read more on this, The effect of social media on family and social bonding is a worthwhile start. In the meantime, sit down with the kids and talk about how important having some rules around screens are.
3. Choose your moments
It can be hard to sustain your adolescent’s attention, and it’s important to be fair. They do not want to go to a Aunty Sue and Uncle Joe’s party on Saturday night. Sure, you all had a fab time at their wedding, but that was when your kid was seven. Let them make their own arrangements for Saturday night, and instead choose a shorter, less ‘out there’ moment to do something together.
Here are some suggestions for making moments count:
• A quiet walk around the neighbourhood after dinner – tweens especially will love heading out after dark with a torch
• A bush walk picnic morning tea one Sunday
• Share some funny gifs and tweets via text
• Go see a movie together or watch something on Netflix
• Make their favourite dinner together
• Start a private FB group or Insta page to share the things you find
• Take them to a music festival (but don’t hang out with them all day!)
• Plan a family holiday together
• Sign the whole family up for some volunteering – Bushcare is good
• Start a garden or join your local community garden
You can change things at any time, on any day, just by asking your kid what they think you could do better together.
If you feel like you’re losing touch with your teens and tweens, don’t stress to much about it. You can change things at any time, on any day, just by asking your kid what they think you could do better together. Remember, too, that kids often drift away from their parents during adolescence. It’s a normal part of growing up.
Think of it like a rope. You want to tie that rope around your kid’s waist like a warm hug, but give the rope loads of slack so they can freely explore. You can always pull on the rope during times when you think they are drifting too far. And they can always follow the rope back home when they are ready.
What’s your number one tip to build a relationship with teens and tweens?