3 ways to connect with your teen even when you're crunched for time
My son is about to turn eleven. Soon he’ll be going to middle school, and with that he’ll be out of the house more often--hanging with friends, going to dances and youth group, and I’ll see him a lot less.
When I stop and think about it, I’m torn between feeling excited that he’s growing up and sad that he won’t need me as much. But more than anything, I want to make sure he doesn’t disconnect.
Having worked with youth groups for almost a decade now, I’ve talked to so many parents who are at a loss. In the steady flow of life, work, school, and so many other things that keep us busy, they lost track of who their kids are, and they wish they could tap into their teen’s thoughts.
They want to feel connected, but they just...don’t.
It’s not an uncommon scenario. The truth is--kids naturally pull away from their parents as they get older. They become more independent, and in turn, some of them become disconnected with their families for a time. It’s a challenge that we parents don’t often see coming. One minute our kids are telling us everything, and the next we’re struggling to get a sentence out of them.
With the short time you get to see your kids some days, connecting with your teenage kids can become hard work. However, in talking to all of these other parents, I’ve learned that it isn’t impossible to navigate this challenge.
Here are three ways you can connect with your teen even when you're crunched for time:
- Take the long way home. If you’re blessed with the opportunity to pick your son or daughter up from school, sports, or youth-group, take the route home that lasts just a few more minutes. Added up, five minutes a day is 35 minutes per week, 140 minutes per month, and 1,680 minutes per year. That’s a lot of time! Fill those minutes with conversation. Ask about their day, their struggles and triumphs, and share some things about your life as well. It’s amazing how much you can talk about when given an extra five minutes each day.
- Use technology. It seems that the older my son gets, the more he’s checking his email. When he was little, I used to love writing notes and putting them in his lunchbox, and it turns out that sending a quick email feels just as great. A few times a week I reach out to my son this way, letting him know I’m thinking of him and asking how he’s doing.
- Take on a project together. Get out the tools and create something! Working together on something is a great way to let the rest of the world and all its pressures fall away. While you’re focused on a task, it’s hard to think about everything else, and it’s a great way to experience that together. Committing to just a few minutes a day, you can wind up with a lot of great chances to connect and unwind with you child.
These three things have worked really well for me so far. With middle school around the corner, I’m grateful for every second I get to spend with my son. I intend to keep it going as long as possible so that as he grows, there's more celebration, more excitement and less worry.
Your turn: What other ways have you found to connect with your kids when time is limited?