As our children grow older it can sometimes become harder to stay connected with them and keep the lines of communication open, but there are a few simple things we can do to keep family bonds strong through adolescence and beyond.
Make family time a natural part of everyday life
There’s a reason why studies show that kids from families who eat dinner together regularly tend to have better outcomes in life. Family dinners may promote better nutrition and social skills, but they also provide an opportunity for families to communicate.
Teens and tweens may have issues they want to mention but don’t want to make a big deal of. Chatting casually over dinner allows them to test the waters by bringing up an issue or referring to an incident to see what parents think about it, before expanding on their own thoughts and feelings.
Share their interests
You may not love the latest rap music or video game but showing an interest in what your kids are interested in can help them feel understood and give you a point of reference or ice breaker to start potentially difficult conversations with.
Chatting about a rap or movie star who has gone into rehab or been caught drunk driving can be an easy way to start conversations about these issues.
Know their friends
It helps communication if you know who they’re talking about and a little bit of background information about them.
It also helps your peace of mind to know where they are and what they’re doing. You’re more likely to get an honest answer to this question if you show consistent mild interest in their friends and activities than if you suddenly start grilling them about it as soon as they reach an age where you feel they might get into real trouble.
Keep reading together
It’s easy to abandon the idea of reading out loud to your children as they become fluent at reading to themselves. This is a natural progression but it doesn’t mean you can’t still keep a connection with your children based on the shared experience of books.
Reading the same books as your child stimulates conversation, and mid-grade and young adult books address a lot of issues that you need to talk about. Read books suitable for your child’s age group and recommend books to each other. Consider joining or starting a parent-child book club.
Create non-confrontational ways to chat
Kids often find it easier to chat while driving to and from activities or walking the dog. Side-by-side activities may open up communication more than trying to get your kid to look you in the eye.
Maintaining a strong bond with your tweens and teens may require some commitment and creativity, but the benefits for both of you are well worth the effort.
Karen is a freelance writer and homeschooling mother of two. Originally from England, she has lived, worked and studied in Canada, Spain, The Netherlands and Australia. She loves the fact that freelancing and homeschooling allow her family to be (fairly) location independent. Her writing specialties include travel, lifestyle, parenting and natural living. She also blogs about writing, publishing and creativity at Change The World With Words.