11 Strategies for Connecting With Your Teen Over Winter Break

Growing up, winter breaks were always so awkward. Our typical routine was broken up, so we were hanging around without much to do. My parents had their regular rhythms that continued on (work, church commitments), so generally there was no reason to be around the house. We just left or spent the day watching TV and playing video games.

Perhaps that’s your experience too. Granted the older the kids are, the more likely they’ll plan their break with friends or choose to stow away in their rooms only coming out to eat and use the bathroom. But if we put a little thought into it, I think there are ways parents can connect by planning some simple but meaningful winter activities for teens. Here are 11 strategies you can use to make the time less awkward and more awesome.

1. Tackle a project.

Often we will avoid recruiting our kids to work on projects with us because our teens complain and they actually make the project take longer. However, inviting your teen to work on a project with you, whether it’s replacing a toilet, painting a room or changing the brakes on your car, can actually provide a great opportunity for teaching some valuable skills and for making memories. If you’ve never done this before, start simple. Maybe go with painting a room over changing brakes. But whatever you choose, focus on connecting over efficiency.

2. Plan a “date.”

Does your teen have a favorite place to eat or grab coffee? Set aside some time to take her out. She’s unlikely to refuse a free meal, and it could give you an opportunity to check in on how things are going. The change of pace also forces both of you to stop and pay attention to each other.

Acts of service are powerful tools to build character in your kids and bridges with your neighbors. Why not combine the two?

3. Serve a neighbor.

Acts of service are powerful tools to build character in your kids and bridges with your neighbors. Why not combine the two? Is there a neighbor who could use help shoveling his sidewalk? Perhaps a family friend recently had a baby and you could take her a meal? Get creative. Identifying winter activities for teens that involve serving others can be a great point of connection and character development.

4. Take a drive.

Road trips can be a blast. Is there somewhere within driving distance that you could take your teen for an evening or even a day? Perhaps it’s a big city nearby. Maybe you’re just a few hours from a beach or a stellar view. Whatever it is, take a chunk of time and go on road trip. The time connecting in the car is priceless and inevitably, humor ensues at some point.

5. Go to an arcade.

Remember arcades? They still exist in many places. Why not take your teen to the nearest one? Let him pick the games, but you pick the stories of the times you used to blow your allowance on Mortal Kombat or NBA Jam.

6. Take a walk.

Don’t overthink it. Ask your teen to take a walk with you. Maybe it’s around the neighborhood or in a local park. Or, if it’s too cold, take her to the mall and walk around like you’re retired. Tell her stories about the glory days of malls when you were a kid and maybe buy her an Orange Julius and a pretzel.

7. Go local.

Most of us have that thing nearby that is cool, but we take it for granted. Is there a local attraction or an historic landmark you’ve not taken your kid to? Make a point of it when he’s back on break. If it’s kind of cheesy, all the better.

8. Share some music.

You probably don’t listen to the same type of music your teen does. So take some time and invite her to share her favorite album with you. Ask questions about songs and lyrics. Ask if you can share some of your favorite music with her. This could take hours or maybe just a few minutes. But not only is it entertaining, you’ll get to know your teen better.

9. Make a meal.

You’ve all got to eat, and he’s got more time than usual this week. So plan an evening when he chooses and makes the meal, and you help him. Bonus points for grocery shopping together as that could add to the experience. Not only can it be a good time to connect, you’re helping him build skills he’ll use for the rest of his life.

10. Run a collection drive.

Find a local nonprofit that serves people in need. Ask them what they need, then invite your teen to work with you to run a collection drive. You could make your house the drop off point and invite her friends and/or teammates to participate. You could get your church involved and run it through their building and programs. As you do it, have your teen interact with the nonprofit so she can learn more about what they do and why.

11. Go to the office.

What if you invited your teen to check out your work place for half a day? If you don’t work in an environment where that’s possible, invite him to meet you at the workplace for lunch. He’s certainly heard you talk about your job, but give him the chance to see it up close so he can learn a little more about you and what you do.

Sound off: What are some other winter activities for teens?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What would you enjoy doing together over winter break?”