Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Connect with your Tween/Teen

A couple of weeks ago my mom and youngest sister moved in with us. I went from dealing with a 6-year-old and 1-year-old on a regular basis to throwing a tween in the mix. It has been a really smooth transition as I remember being and emotional tween myself, but there have been many times I have been absolutely baffled as to why she is upset and said silent apologies to my parents for the crazy I was in the teen years. Not bad crazy, just emotional crazy. Here are my tips for staying connected to your tween based on when I was one.

1. Take an interest. When I was a teenager, I suddenly became very interested in exploring other religions. My parents who are very religious never freaked out. They bought books and drove me to services for other churches. They had frank discussions with me about their religion and other religions. They were so loving and involved in the entire situation that it ended up being a very positive learning experience for me instead of a rebellion. They took an interest in something that was important to me and took something that could hurt our relationship and used it to make it stronger.

Whenever I see parents are concerts for their child's favorite band I want to give them a big high five. You are showing your kid that their opinion matters. It can be hard to not tell them to shut off their noise. I am guilty of it quite a bit, but showing them that you care about what they care about goes a long way.

2. Find one and one time. I am one of six kids. One and one time with your mom can be hard to come by. My parents took small opportunities such as driving to practices, dentist appointments and even just long Sunday drives with just one kid to reconnect to us and to get us to open up. There were many things I didn't want my siblings to know so I didn't talk about them until I was alone with my mom. My parents were also VERY good about not talking about one child's problems with another. It drove us crazy as kids, we wanted to know the dirt on the other siblings, but I am grateful for it. Since my siblings and I are very close, we often told each other anyway, but it helped that it was always on our terms.

3. Make your house the place people want to be. My parents always worked hard to make our house the fun house, Some it was purchases, like a pool table, and some was just the laid back atmosphere. My parents decided early on that they would rather create an environment that we loved to be and our friends loved to be. It made it very easy to stay involved in our lives without seeming overbearing.
Capture the Flag during a Family Night. 
4. Have a family night. Growing up, there was one night a week that we weren't allowed to schedule extra things. No practices, no study sessions. Obviously it wasn't completely unavoidable but for the most part that one night was special. Some of my best memories come from those nights. My brothers once quoted an entire Jim Carrey movie for us, complete with acting out the scenes. I am not sure I have ever laughed that hard and I am glad my parents gave us the opportunities for such memories.

5. Eat dinner together as a family every night. This one is HUGE in our family. Dinner is non-negotiable. Did you know that kids who regularly eat dinner together as a family feel happier and more optimistic about life than the peers who don't? (source) If as helping your teen feel happier wasn't a reason to have family dinner by itself, they have also found that having family dinners decreases your child's change of obesity and substance abuse AND frequent family dinners leads to better grades. There is pretty much no down side to sitting down with your kids once a day to catch up and share a meals.

I know it can be so hard to want to cook and have a meal after a long day at work, which is why this summer we have been using Dream Dinners. I assemble 12 meals at a time, freeze them in my freezer and pull them out 2-3 at a time to use during the week. We have had a delicious, healthy meal every single night with literally no effort. I love it because on nights I feel like being gourmet chef, I do it and on nights where I feel like cooking is way too much effort, I throw in a Dream Dinner and family dinner is saved.

I love that it is all great food, like ribs. It isn't liking throwing in a TV dinner, it is about making good wholesome food. You can find out more about my experience with Dream Dinners here.

How do you connect with your tween?

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