When your children were toddlers it was easy to stay connected as a family. Everywhere you went your toddler went, too. As children get older and grow from toddler to a young person, they discover there is more to the world around them than just mom and dad. As they grow from child to teen, this new world of possibilities continues to as they begin to focus on outside activities, school, and friends. It’s easy to feel that as your teenager becomes more involved in the world outside your home, they are slipping away from your family. This doesn’t have to be the case. Here are three important things you can do to stay connect with your teen.
Create a welcoming environment for them and their friends
You’ll soon find that your home becomes the "go to" home for the entire group of friends. You create this environment by providing a space for them to visit, play games, or watch movies as well as a positive atmosphere. Another trick is to have snacks on hand. Teenagers are often hungry and if your house provides a place for gathering while snacking you’ll soon find your rooms filled with teenagers.
Plan fun family events or carry on traditions
Whether it’s planning a summer vacation or simply continuing a holiday tradition, these events will help to unite your family in unique ways. Think back to your own childhood and teenage years. What are the things you remember from growing up? Chances are, you’ll be able to remember vacations and traditions of your own family. Something happens when you are on vacation and all the worries of the world are left behind. Family bonds become stronger and are enriched. The same can happen on a more routine basis as you create and carry on family traditions. Traditions don’t need to be reserved just for the holidays, either. Create a family game night once a week. Have extended family over for dinner once a month. Talk to your teen and find out what events they would like to help you begin with your family. Any of these traditions and events will help to create more unity within your family, and you’ll be building memories your children will reflect on one day.
Finally, communication is key in keeping your teen grounded to your family
Teens quickly and easily become wrapped up in what is happening in their own world and circle of friends. They may be drifting away from your family and not realize it. If you have a long established pattern of trust and open communication with your child it is easy to talk to them and tell them how you are feeling. You can ask them to join your family for activities more often. The key in doing this is in not ambushing your teen as they are headed off on another outing with friends, but to find the right time to bring their attention your concerns.
Teens still want (and need) to be involved with their family; you just need to create the pathway. If you take the time to involve and include them, you’ll find that they can be just as happy spending time with family as they are when with friends.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.