Feed them—if you feed them they will come. Often the way to a teenager’s heart is to start with his/her stomach. Find out what they really like to eat and make their favorites. Step toward them by ASKING what they would like to have. Sometimes what we think is a favorite is not. Or they may be craving something you hadn’t realized. Even if they don’t say so, it may help them to know you are listening and responding.
2. Use that meal to connect AS you are making it. Have the kids come and help with the prep. Often times ours come to the kitchen to help, sometimes reluctantly. But more times than not, we end up having conversations we would not have had if we had not worked together.
3. Sit down together as a family and have a no device policy at the table. If you have never done that it may take a little while to get accustomed to the new plan. We have a box on the counter that has chargers. The kids don’t even think about putting their devices any more. This will pay off. Rejoice in the small steps forward. Every moment you can look them in the face as you communicate is a win!
4. Get out of town together as a family. Resist the urge to take the kids’ friends with you. The goal is shared experiences with your family. When you try new things together you will begin to have conversations that only you and your family can have because no one else was with you. These will be memories that your family has forever. And sometimes what feels like the greatest fail ends up being the most hilarious story.
Don’t disqualify yourselves from getting away because of money. Get creative with places you could go that would be inexpensive. Check out this article from our summer series that talks about a mom who uses her creativity to bless her kids with adventure.
5. Have a family night. You don’t have to call it that but you can set the time aside just the same. One night our youngest wanted to play charades. We insisted the teenagers join in. One was VERY opposed and the other was mildly opposed. Taylor didn’t give in. We started playing and after a while we were not just having fun, but were belly-laughing at each other. I am so thankful he pushed passed the resistance. The whole family has enjoyed Apples To Apples, a dice game called Left, Right, Center and we love a card game called Pounce.
6. Take a drive with one of your children. It may not seem like a big step, but I am constantly fascinated how when I have one of them alone they begin to talk. Maybe take a few extra minutes to bless them in a little way, while you are out. Run through his/her favorite place for a drink. A drive thru will buy you more time to talk too!
7. Be willing to stay up later. Our teenagers like to start talking AFTER the younger siblings have gone to bed. They usually just get started by the time we would usually have already gone to bed. If you are lacking patience, check out this article Ruthie Gray posted! She even shares a powerful prayer that will help us as parents.
No matter how big the challenge of connecting may feel just keep stepping toward connection. When it feels to hard…just keep stepping. If one thing doesn’t work then just try another. This will be a list I will forever be growing. I have many more years of teenagers. I pray that we will be connection professionals by the time our youngest is a teen. May she grow up so connected that she would never even consider disconnection as an option!
There is always more to learn. If we stay humble and teachable we can become better relationally than we ever have been before. We can have better relationships with our children, we just need to start taking one powerful parenting step after another.