As kids grow up it can be more and more difficult to find unique and fun ways to connect with them. I work with teens and tweens, and even as a 26-year-old, they are often more honest with me than most of their parents. I asked them what kinds of things they would be willing to do with their families. Together, we came up with these suggestions that are a little out of the ordinary, but might actually get your kids excited to connect and hang out.
1. Weekly Rendezvous.
Find a time once a week where your family can get together and talk about a certain issue or play a game. Make it consistent. One family I know has every family member during the week write down at least five words they came upon in every day life they didn’t recognize. It makes both parents and kids think about the ‘challenge’ during the week, they get to learn new words and connect with some pretty funny guessing games and example sentences on their weekly Sunday night challenge.
Pick anything and, depending on your child or family’s interests, you can do it with young kids too. If you want your kids watching the news more, have them find one really interesting news story once a week and email it around to everyone on Friday for discussion at dinner that night.
2. Game Night.
This one was a favorite in my house. The most important part of family dinners is the simple act of having family members interacting on a regular basis. During dinner, my siblings and I didn’t want to talk very much, but after dinner and homework, my family played card and board games instead of watching TV. Each of us got to pick a game a certain night of the week. I found it was much easier to connect with my parents during a game of ‘Clue’ or ‘Scene It’ and easier to forget I was mad at them about my curfew after the dance that weekend. We were bonding over games, and it didn’t even feel like bonding.
3. Rate your day.
Have trouble getting dinner conversation started? This is a fun and interesting way to get teens talking (and for you to reflect on your day). Every night at dinner have everyone go around the table and give the best part of their day, the worst part of their day and then a surprise (anything random that happened, a funny story or anecdote). Lastly everyone can rate his or her day from 1 to 10 (1 being really bad to 10 being amazing) and then you can talk about it.
4. Tap in to Local.
Depending on your kids’ interests there are a number of interesting activities you can do with your family at local stores. If your kid loves animals, make an appointment at the local rescue shelter so that your family can come and play with puppies and see how their business works. If your kid loves to cook, call a local cake bakery and ask if you can go with your kid to take a tour of their facility—fun, free, and a great way to teach your child more about their hobbies.
5. Festivals, Carnivals and Shows—in the next town over.
There are tons of local festivals and carnivals in towns and surrounding areas. Register and check local calendars managed by your town and neighboring town’s Chamber of Commerce. Harvest festivals and local film festivals can be a great buy because the family can go to activities over the course of a weekend. You can also take kids to neighboring town’s high school plays and musicals for a fun matinee.
Whichever activity you choose, try to interact with your kids on a regular basis and show them you are interested in their activities, friends and interests. If you are going through a rough time, remember that teens go through ups and downs and so will your relationship. If you keep with it and show them you love them, the relationship will get better.