I don’t know about you, but my days can get full. Between work, kids’ extra curricular activities, caring for our 1-year-old foster child, and just keeping the house from falling apart, the day is gone before I know it. Yesterday was just such a day. By the time 11 p.m. rolled around and I was ready for bed, my daughter was still finishing homework. I kissed her good night and began walking up the steps. As I did, the thought occurred to me, “I haven’t spoken with her at all today.”
Have you been there? Our lives are so full that if we’re not intentional, we will lose out on what is most important in our relationships with our teens: connection. The good news is, even for busy people, there are often opportunities for connection hiding in plain sight. Here are 7 opportunities you miss to connect with your teen daily, and some thoughts on changing that.
1. First Thing in the Morning
Mornings can be a blur as we shower, grab coffee and breakfast, and get ready for the day. And as irritable as you and I can be, your teen is often far less interested in having a conversation than you are. But you can still connect with your teen. The key is disciplining yourself to be present. It doesn’t have to be a huge conversation (no one has the energy for that at 6 a.m.), but you might be surprised by the impact a little eye contact and a “good morning, kiddo” can have.
2. Over Breakfast
In the brief moments when you all find yourself in the kitchen, whether it’s sitting over a bowl of cereal or scurrying around looking for a protein bar, breakfast is a great opportunity to check in. “Anything going on in school today?” can be a great question that helps you get a beat on what is going on for him. And if your teen is like most and can’t respond to questions prior to 10 a.m., consider sharing something you’ve got on the agenda for the day that you’re excited for or thinking about.
3. Over Text
For teens, texting (or for, that matter, Snapchat or Instagram) can actually be a fun and simple way to connect throughout the day. Did something funny happen at work? Did you see a meme that made you laugh while scrolling social media over lunch? Or maybe you thought of something you wish you would’ve asked her. Shoot her a text or a message. She’ll likely respond more readily to it than if you were to ask her in person anyway.Don’t let your engagement with your kids be contingent on their response.
4. When You Get Home From Work
Often getting home from work can feel like the same type of whirlwind as the morning. You’re tired and your teens are disengaged. Perhaps the last thing you have energy for is a long conversation. Again, if you want to connect with your teen, the key is being present. Take a moment to sit on the couch across from him and make eye contact. Ask him how his day was. The response is less important (my guess it will involve grunts and possibly eye rolls). Don’t let your engagement with your kids be contingent on their response.
5. During Dinner
Your teen has to eat. I recommend you do everything possible to eat together. Even if it’s just a 15-minute meal, eat together if you can. We have a strict “no devices at the table” rule. I highly encourage it. That goes for you too, Dad. Put the phones down and ask how your teen’s day went. Share how your day went. Practice conversation, even if it’s hard.
6. While Watching TV
Connecting with your teen doesn’t need to happen sitting across from each other. It can also happen sitting next to each other. Enjoy a show or a sporting event together. It’s easy to think, “She’s just watching TV; I can do my own thing now.” But laughing together or experiencing something she enjoys with her can create a great opportunity for connection.
7. Right Before Bed
At the end of the day, everyone is exhausted and ready for bed. No one wants a long conversation. But right before bed can be a great time to take five minutes and connect with your teen. Ask what’s on his schedule tomorrow and let him know what’s going on for you. Ask him what his favorite part of the day was or if anything frustrated him. Be sure to say “good night” and tell him that you love him. Connecting doesn’t have to be lengthy or even deep. It simply needs to be intentional and authentic.
Sound off: What other opportunities exist to connect with your teen daily?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your teen and ask, “What are you most excited about right now?”