So, you have your hands full with your kiddo at the age they are right now, and the teen years feel a million years away. The whole thing is so abstract, most of us don’t give much thought to preparing now for the teen we’ll have then. But that child finger painting today is a teen-in-the-making. If you lay some good groundwork now, you’re doing yourself and your future teen a lot of favors. Most of it is being intentional about your relationship now for a big time pay-off down the road.
Getting–and staying connected–to your teen can be hard. Hard, but absolutely necessary. Here’s a list of things you can do with your child today so you’ll have a better time staying connected to that same kiddo when he hits the teen years. I can promise you this–There’s something in this list that is perfect for your relationship with your future teen. I promise. And you can get started right away!
Building Connection in the Day-to-Day
- Start early, like today!
- It’s an oldie but a goodie–dinnertime. There’s a ton of evidence about how good it is for kids to grow up having dinner around the table with their families. Do it as often as you possibly can. Even if you didn’t do it growing up, take a run at it with your own family. You’re never going to regret the nights you spent around the table together, even if it was just for 30 minutes. Never ever, no never, not ever.
- Another classic? Bedtime. Read together, pray together, and/or talk. A friend of mine said this: “I have gone to her bed every night since she was little, and we would talk at night. She said she felt like she could tell me anything, and I wouldn’t judge her.”
I love this because it shows what’s possible in the relationship when you start early. So go ahead and get that last moment of connection at the end of the day, no matter how tired you are. It’s okay to be honest and say, “I had a long day, and I’m tired. But I really want to spend a little time with you. But if I yawn, it’s because of the day, not you!”
- Be willing to do something you don’t want to do. Ever been to a Wiggles concert, or sat through yet another talking animal movie? How many parents are/were playing Pokemon Go with their kids? A LOT. And being tired doesn’t get you off the hook. Ahem.
- In related news, talk about whatever they want to talk about. I know just as well as you do that you’re not interested in what some stupid cartoon character did in today’s rerun, but your child is. That’s part of her world. And you may not care what so-and-so’s mom packs him every day for lunch, but your child does.
Keep two things in mind. First, you’re showing interest in your kid, not the topic. Second, being an interested listener now makes you an interested listener later, when the topics get bigger and more interesting, and when the stakes get higher.
- Ask the right questions to make a habit of casual conversation. “Yes/no” (or “fine”) questions just put you on the road to nowhere. “How was your day?” “Fine.” “How was your math test?” “Okay.” “Did you talk to your teacher about that project?” “Yes.” Sigh.
Some kids will talk no matter what you ask, but if you’re not so lucky, here are some ideas: What was something funny/interesting/surprising that happened today? What did you guys do in PE today? What are you reading in English? Who did you sit with at lunch? Hey, whatever happened with ____ ?
There you go. Six simple things you can do to lay important groundwork for later. You’re probably already doing some of this, so keep it up. If you need to add more, do it.
You’re lucky because you still have time on your side, so use it!
Yes, you can make up for it later, but it’s so much easier to start early. Plus, these are all things that are good for your relationship with your child right where she is today.