You survived the 3 a.m. feedings, the screaming teething fits and the Terrible Twos. As trying as those years may have been, you're also feeling nostalgic for the simple times when you rigged a tent over some chairs with a blanket, played a rambunctious game of hide-and-seek and rediscovered the joys of finger paint (as long as it was the washable variety). Now that your child is a teen, it can be difficult not to feel wistful for the days when entertainment seemed so easy and carefree. So here's some news you've been waiting for: You can reach back to those trying but fulfilling years and bond with your teen with some creative relationship-building exercises.
Of course, as the parent of a teen, you're far too wise to call them that – at least in front of your teen. He or she might run for the hills – and take his or her favorite blanket along for the ride. Call them activities that help strengthen your bond with your teen, especially if you make a commitment to repeat them with regularity.
Pick One Night a Week to Make a Meal Together
Everybody likes to eat, so leverage this reality and set your teen in front a cookbook or an online recipe site to choose a meal the two of you can make together (and – even better – shop for together, too). As you know, teen tastes can be somewhat unconventional, so be prepared to hold your tongue over his menu choice. The chance to share stories and otherwise connect over the cutting board will be worth it.
Host a Dinner Party for Your Teen and a Few Friends
Once you gain experience as a tag team in the kitchen, burnish your skills by hosting a dinner party for your teen and her friends. Try to attach some significance to the party, such as celebrating the end of a school semester. This way, it will be easier to make the party a regular event. Planning and preparing for the party can help you bond with your teen; spending some quality time with her can give you valuable insights into her relationships and how she interacts.
Plan a Day Trip Together
It's one thing to “go along for the ride” over a meal. Your opinion should rank a little higher when you pick a place to visit for the day. Most states teem with attractions that residents never have the chance to see, including state parks, landmarks and historical sites. If your teen starts to yawn over these possibilities, hand over the controls. Just don't be surprised if a water park or indoor shopping mall rises to the list. Getting away for the day can be an especially helpful antidote to any tension in your household. In fact, by the time you return, the stress could be as good as gone.
Team Up on a Community Project
Officials in many communities are overjoyed to link residents with groups that actively need volunteers. Make a few phone calls or go to your municipal or county website; you might be surprised by the choices that await you – everything from food pantries to homeless shelters and tutoring clubs to pet shelters. Don't worry if your time is limited. Unlike an employer, a community group that depends on volunteers will usually accept any time you can spare. Moreover, you might be able to select an organization that embodies your values – a meaningful way to connect with a teen who is preparing to enter adulthood.
Communicate Your Gratitude
Generally speaking, teens aren't fond of parental affection. Or at least, this is what they may say. Deep down, it's usually a different story, because teens crave attention and affection from their parents as much as infants and toddlers, psychologists say. Knowing this, be sure to tell your teen that you enjoy spending time with him or her. Extend a hug and plant a kiss on her cheek. Your overtures just might bring you back in time – without the anxiety of those screaming teething fits.