Make the most of the time you have left with them at home.
It’s not always easy to get your kids to hang around or to talk with you about all the things. Your family has busy schedules, friends, jobs, sports, homework – you name it. In the midst of all the stuff on your plate, how can you make room for quality time with your teen? Maybe this list can help.
1. Let them know their friends are welcome.
I mean, who’s not up for a party? Be up for a friend gathering for s’mores, a cookout, or an outdoor movie. Let your house be the place they want to hang out and don’t let money get in the way. If you can’t afford to supply all the food yourself, have everyone bring something. The key is to set the wheels in motion. As an added bonus, you’ll get to know their friends, too.
2. Disconnect to connect.
Multi-tasking is a major conversation-killer. For example, if your teen hates it when you talk on the phone when they are in the car, they may have a valid point. Who wants to feel excluded from a conversation? So, try to intentionally avoid talking when you are riding together. You know that little button that lets people know you’re driving? Use it, and make the time together in the car count. You have a captive audience and precious time in the car, so use it wisely. This goes for the dinner table and the living room, too.
3. Respect their space.
It is key that you respect your teen’s space if you want to deepen your connection with your teen. If you have no reason to question their safety, please allow them some room to have their own thoughts, dreams, and goals. Give them the time and space to be a young adult. The more you crowd them, the less likely they will be to share with you or even spend time with you.
4. Listen to them, even when it’s hard to just listen.
When our teens hurt, we hurt. It may be easy to go into “Protective Mode” or “Fix-It Mode.” What they need is for you to listen and help them process — not take over, freak out, ask a million questions, or launch into a lecture.
5. Find out what they like to do and join (apps like Snapchat, TikTok, read the same book and discuss, re-decorate a room together, etc.)
This may not be second nature to you. You may find that liking a post or trying to keep a Snap Streak alive shows that you care (and if you mess up the streak, they’ll let you know, which shows that they care, too). Allow them to teach you a new popular dance, then dance with them in a crazy TikTok video.
6. Get into their world, even if you don’t understand it.
You may not be a big fan of video gaming, sports, or animé. You may even dismiss its usefulness in your teen’s life. However, those things have meaning to your teen. Getting involved with what’s are important to them demonstrates that you value their interests, so… value them. It may open the door for you to invite them to join you in things you do. They may actually shock you by saying “yes.”
7. If you bake it, they will come (and maybe even talk).
I have NEVER had my teens turn me down for a little one-on-one time if there is food or dessert involved. You may actually get more than a one-word answer to a question. This may look a little different depending on which child I’m wooing, for sure. It can be as simple as warming a pecan pie for my high schooler or as involved as cooking hamburgers on the grill for my college graduate. Once you find what works, it’s a win.
These are just a few ways for parents to increase their quality time with their teens. It’s important to make the most of the time that you have left with them at home. Before you know it, they will be off to college, military, or the work world.
Here are some other blogs that may help you deepen your connection with your teen:
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/md-duran-eTYKL7xokwE-unsplash-e1596212812562.jpg254500Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2020-07-14 21:45:592022-03-25 11:30:127 Ways to Deepen Your Connection With Your Teen
Often, we use the words “affection” and “love” interchangeably. While understandable, and they can certainly overlap, I’m going to make a distinction between love and affection. Affection is adoration, fondness, liking someone. So our question would change to:
How much should I show my child that I adore them, I am fond of them and that I like them?
See the difference that makes?
Or let me put it this way—a baby doesn’t understand the self-sacrificial love that you have for them deep in your heart, but just holding them and cuddling demonstrates affection. And they pick up on it. And it has long-term developmental consequences.
Or how about this? How would a teen receive an “I love you” if there was never any affection shown toward them? Those words would be meaningless.
Showing your child affection communicates security, belonging, acceptance, and that they are liked.
Sometimes as parents we stumble over the simplicity and the importance of showing affection. I hope my kids know and trust that I love them, but I also hope they know that I really like and enjoy them, too.
I have five kids. As babies, they were all held, snuggled, and rocked. There is no better feeling in the world than having one of my little babies asleep on my chest. My youngest is now 14. He was my only “snuggly” little one.
Wow. Things are a lot different now. Showing affection evolves at different ages and stages as our kids grow up. My 14-year-old son doesn’t want to be “snuggled” and he definitely isn’t going to fall asleep on my chest. (Even hugs, if his friends are around, are kinda iffy.) But he appreciates a pat on the back after he mowed the yard or a hand on his shoulder if we are waiting in line. He really loves hearing that I noticed the heel-kick he did in a soccer game.
Each of my five children is a unique individual. Even when they were little, each had their own personality. One of the first parenting lessons I learned was that what one child needed in terms of affection from me was different from another child. I also learned that the ways I showed affection to them that seemed meaningful to me and came naturally to me did not necessarily translate into affection from my kids’ point of view, so I had to learn what they needed.
I had to spend time with each of them and learn about their individual hearts.
Some of the things I learned over time that have helped me figure out the best ways to express affection to my kids are:
This can provide insights into how they receive affection. Do they ask:
You to come and play with them? Quality Time.
If you think the picture they drew is pretty? Affirmation.
If you can help with their hair? Touch.
Pay close attention to how they express affection to you.
This also provides insight into their heart and what means affection to them. Do they:
Want to sit in your lap and give you hugs?
Like to make things for you like drawing you a picture or bring you things like a dandelion?
Tell you they like hanging out with you while you work on the car?
★ Spend Time With Them. ★
Learn their “affection language.” When my daughter was about 5, I took her to a movie and put my arm on the back of her seat. She immediately asked me to move my arm. Point noted!
Let them set the agenda for what you do together. Get on the floor and play with their toys together. Watch them play video games. If you are present and engaged, you are saying you like them and like spending time with them. (Put your phone away.)
Take them with you to run errands or hang out with you while you’re working on stuff. Show that you just enjoy their company. Lots of bonding happens organically just being together.
Notice and express gratitude for the little things they do. Don’t reserve praise for big things. “Thanks for telling me a little about your day.” “I appreciate you helping bring the groceries in.” This communicates that you notice and like them.
Spend time with your child and become a student of their heart. Tell them that you love them but also tell them that you like them, you enjoy spending time with them, how proud you are of them, and that you believe in them. This all translates to affection to your child.
Many kids today don’t think their parents even like them, let alone love them. You are communicating how you feel about your kids all the time. And they are watching.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/humphrey-muleba-Cc-CQTUkbH0-unsplash-2-scaled-e1596225005905.jpg223500John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-06-09 09:00:282020-07-31 15:50:29How Much Affection Should I Show My Child?
Staying calm in the face of a screaming or irrational child having a tantrum is no easy task. (Especially if it is in public or around friends & family. You feel like everyone is watching and judging. And they probably are. You just gotta get over that. It’s hard.) Let’s start with you.
We often find it hard to handle our emotions when our children have meltdowns. That often gives them power over us.
★ I’m gonna say one kinda harsh but true thing, give you a parenting principle that kept us sane, and then list a bunch of practical tips to help you hold on to your sanity.
The Kinda Harsh Thing
Your kids aren’t driving you crazy, you are. Don’t take offense. Someone had to tell me that same thing and it was a game changer for my wife and I. At one point we had 4 kids 5 and under. I get it. But kids are just busy being kids with their little kids’ brains. We have to be the adults. Sometimes kids act out to get our attention or affection, but sometimes they are feeling things they aren’t equipped to process. Sometimes they are just tired. You “lose it” or are driven “crazy” only as much as you allow.Let that sink in.
Here’s a little something about your (fully developed) parent brain. When you are stressed to the max, totally about to lose it, and highly emotionally triggered, your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that does all the higher-order important brain stuff — like logic, predicting outcomes of words and actions, decision-making, impulse control, focusing your attention, processing feelings of empathy, compassion, shame, and guilt — that part of the brain gets “flooded” with the same stress hormones that put us into “fight or flight” mode.
At this point, your nervous system has kicked in and you are no longer the “normal” you. To your body, it’s the same as being charged by a bear. You will not think, act, or speak, like the “normal” you. It’s not your best self, it’s your biology. This is the “driving me crazy” feeling that you feel. Under stress, we regress. We either shut down or lash out. (Sometimes at our kids, sadly.) You will accomplish little to no parenting good in this state and you may do harm.
Parents need to recognize when they are being “flooded” and call a “Time-Out.” This might mean asking your partner to step in. This might mean getting the kids into the car and just going home. This might mean asking your kids to go sit on their beds. It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to recover from flooding. During this time, do what soothes you and calms you down.
Now think of a 4-year-old brain.They are not even close to fully developed. They can be flooded just by saying “no” to a piece of candy in the check-out line or simply being tired. When they are flooded, they throw tantrums, melt down, and act out. They need time for the floodwaters to recede from their little brains, too. Sometimes they can’t calm themselves down or soothe themselves. You might have to take an active part in that. That doesn’t mean condoning misbehavior. You can address it later after they have calmed down. It means they are not going to learn any “lesson” while flooded.
We have to be the adult, the grown-up, the parent, the one with a fully-developed brain.
The One Parenting Principle That Helped Us Keep Our Sanity
Kids need routines, rituals, structure, and boundaries. This makes their young lives predictable, secure, and safe but it also provides them with the freedom to be kids. Oh, and these things can also help mom and dad to stay sane. It might take a little work upfront, but it will save you from so many tantrums, meltdowns, plus lots of time in the long run. You need a morning routine and a bedtime routine for sure, minimum. Post them at your kids’ eye-level. Use pictures if they can’t read yet.A structured day is a less stressful day.
(Whether these are helpful may depend on you and your kids’ ages & maturity levels.)
Separate the child and the behavior. Be careful how you say things.
Sometimes kids need to go outside and burn off energy.
The Art of Redirection: “Instead of jumpin’ off the deck, why don’t you see who can run around the house the fastest?” (Notice: You didn’t say, “Don’t jump off the deck!”)
Sometimes we had to pretend we were watching other people’s kids. Seriously.
Enforce Quiet Time — Even if they’ve outgrown naps. Kids can sit on their bed and read or play for 30 minutes quietly (maybe longer) while you catch a breather.
Include them in what you are doing—cleaning, cooking, etc. Give them a little job to do.
Rotate toys. We would pack up some of their toys and put them in the attic. Less clutter, and when you bring those toys back, it’s like Christmas. Rotate out some other toys.
Read to them. Seriously, this should be a top priority at any age.
Try to do something new every week or so — puppet show, art exhibition, dance-off.
Have one of their friends over. (Take turns with another parent.) 1 Kid + 1 Friend = 0 Kids. I don’t know how that math works, but it does.
Take advantage of reading days at the library or bookstores or a “Parent’s Night Out” at your church or YMCA. [When things open back up.]
Get up before they do and you are ahead of the game. Don’t play “catch-up” all day. Have your own morning and bedtime routines. Take care of yourself.
Structured playtime — “It’s 1:30! That’s Lego Time!” Unstructured playtime — “It’s 1:30! Time to play whatever you want in your room!” (Or outside, if that is a safe option.)
Teach kids not to tattle-tale on each other and learn to work out their own differences. (Tattle-tales got in trouble at our house unless there was blood involved.)
Have some “special things” they don’t always have access to. Then when you break it out, it is an INCENTIVE & EVENT. “Play-Doh! Just after we clean up lunch!”
Break bigger tasks down into smaller tasks — “Clean your room” = “Put the books back on the bookshelf, then report back!” “Okay, now put your stuffed animals up.” And so on.
We learned that each of our kids had what we called “Pressure Points.” Learn them. One child hated standing in the corner for “Time-Out.” Another kid loved it, but hated being sent to his room. Yet another child loved being sent to their room, but hated chores. They are all unique individuals. What gets one’s attention may not get another’s.
Use a hula-hoop for cleaning their room —“Clean up the part of the floor in the hula-hoop!” Then move the hoop to the next area.
Time chores — make them a race, game-ify things. “Let’s see if you can get ready for bed before the timer goes off!” See if they can top their best time.
Don’t just say, “Time to get out of PJs. Get dressed!” Give them choices: “You can choose between this outfit or this one.” Trust me, this solves a bunch of problems before they become problems.
Charts on the fridge are your friend (but only if you are consistent with it).
If any behavior gets a “big reaction” from you, you will see it again. And again. And again. Choose wisely what you react to…
Have older kids help with younger kids. (But be careful not to put adult responsibilities on them. That can breed resentment.)
Sometimes you just have to put a kids’ movie on and chill for 90 minutes. It’s okay.
If you have more than one child, try to get some one-on-one time with each of them doing what they like to do. It can be 10-15 minutes twice a day.
“SNACK TIME!” Diffuses many chaotic situations. Ah, the power of some fruit, cheese and crackers!
Do some exercises with your kids. It lets you blow off some steam and gets them moving and sets a good example. Plus, it’s just fun.
Try to see situations through their eyes. Cultivate empathy.
Know your triggers. Be prepared for them and prepare your children for them. “We are going grocery shopping. Please do not ask for any candy. The answer is already ‘no’ so remember not to ask.”
Love your child unconditionally. Let them know that you like and enjoy them too.
What is that saying about parenting? “The days are long, but the years fly by.” It’s so true. My kids are basically grown up now. Somewhere, deep down inside of me, I miss the insanity.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/photo-of-woman-and-her-children-lying-on-bed-4473871-scaled-e1596225068273.jpg208500John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-06-09 08:54:492021-12-21 10:33:37My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy: 30 Tips to Stay Sane
I was thinking about this question as I drove to pick my 14-year-old up from football practice. Without any context, when he got in the car, I asked, “Do we ever fight?” He said no, and I followed up with, “Why not?” [His insights surprised me and definitely made me look like a better parent than I am. More on that later.] Here’s what he said:
“You’re understanding. You don’t yell or instigate. And you don’t nag. You listen. A lot of it is personality—We’re both pretty chill. We don’t press each other.” [He’s not wrong. We’re both laid back. Also, I don’t know what “press” means.] “Like, yesterday, I guess you can call that a ‘fight.’ You wanted me to mow the lawn right after football practice and I didn’t want to. You listened to my reasons why and said why it needed to be done. I still asked a couple more times, and you said, ‘Sorry, dude. Do it now.'”
For the record, he is the youngest of five children. I’m 50. What he calls “chill” might just be parental fatigue. I have most definitely fought with my other kids. But he has also benefited from what I’ve learned from parenting his four much-older siblings.
He did touch on some things that might be labeled, “New School Parenting.” Listening to where your teen is coming from. Trying to understand their perspective. Letting them feel “heard.” Explaining your reasons. Not yelling or escalating. This was definitely not “Old School Parenting.” My father didn’t say, “Sorry, dude.” He just went straight to, “Do it now.” and probably threw in a “Because I said so!”
Here are some probing questions to ask yourself that could answer, “How do I stop fighting with my teen?”
Bear with me, I’m gonna start at the foundation…
1. Does your teen know that you love them?
Don’t be quick to say, “Of course!” I talk to a lot of teens who don’t think their parents even like them. How well do you know your teen’s heart? Do you know what speaks love to them? Do you show interest in the things that interest them? How much time do you spend time with them? Do you know their friends? Do you take a little time to welcome them into your home and get to know them a bit? When is the last time you told your teen that you love them? How about: I’m proud of you. I believe in you. I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me?
2. Do you have clear boundaries, routines, and structure in place?
At any age, boundaries and routines provide clarity and predictability and security. But they also provide freedom and communicate, “I care about your well-being.” They are just another way to say, “I love you.” ★ Have you made these boundaries clear to your teen and the benefits and consequences that are associated with them? ★
Both of these things form a relationship foundation that can stop a lot of fights before they start.An environment of love and good communication, as well as clear expectations and consistent consequences, will help you avoid many fights.
If you include your teen in making a cellphone contract or family technology plan or car-use contract, (or at least have a conversation that covers boundaries, expectations, and consequences) everything is all laid out. You don’t have to think of a punishment on the spot or get angry, and you don’t have to raise your voice. You can just say, “Look, we talked about this. If you came in past curfew, you lost social driving privileges for ___.” (If you choose to go the contract route, remember, they aren’t carved in stone. They get adjusted as your child matures and builds trust. Plus, sometimes stuff happens—flat tires, extenuating circumstances, and sometimes some grace is in order.)
Stop fights before they start. There’s no “negotiating” which often escalates into a full-blown fight.
3. Still, no matter what, you are gonna have some fights with your teenager.
Remember you are engaged with a teen whose brain is not fully developed. It won’t be until they are in their 20s. Just understand that the parts of the brain that regulate emotions, predict consequences for actions, and do other “higher-order” things like logic aren’t fully formed. If they are upset, it’s even worse. Don’t be shocked by an “I hate you!” or something similar.
Speaking of brains, when we (you and your teen) have hot and heavy emotions, our prefrontal cortex gets “flooded” with “fight or flight” chemicals that can make us say and do things that we will regret later. Learn to recognize when this is happening in you and your teen. This is when you need to call a “time-out.” Nothing productive is going to happen if one or both of you is flooded.
It takes two to tango. It takes two to fight. You are the adult—you can do things like de-escalating, not letting your emotions push you around, choosing the best time to address an issue, recognizing “flooding,” and knowing when you are out of line and need to apologize or calmly hold your ground.
If you recognize there are specific issues or areas that tend to be the catalyst for fighting, take time (NOT in the middle of a fight) to have a conversation about them. Note: I said, “conversation,” that’s a two-way street that involves speaking and listening. I’ve found that even if a boundary didn’t change, but I took the time to explain the rationale behind it and listened to my teen’s point of view and made them feel “heard,” they had a completely different posture toward it. Sometimes even a tiny bit of “give and take” goes a long way.
Fighting with your teen is no fun at all, but it is part of parenting.
Do your best to stop fights before they start. Sometimes we expect our teens to act and respond like adults, and biologically they literally are not there yet. We have to be the adults in the situation. Remember: You are fighting FOR your teen, not WITH them. They will see the difference.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/AdobeStock_252132187-scaled-e1596225143933.jpeg173450John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-06-08 15:42:202020-09-02 11:39:54How Do I Stop Fighting With My Teen?
When I was a teen, summer meant one thing: work. And lots of it. I had 2-3 jobs lined up before school was out each summer. That’s because my goal was to make as much money as possible. Part of my motivation was to put gas in my car, pay for any eating out, and try to save for college expenses. The other motivation was that my parents believed working would help me learn to be more responsible. They also thought it would give me other necessary skills for a successful life.
With COVID-19 essentially slamming the door on the majority of summer jobs for teens, we face some challenges. The escape out of the isolation that many teens hoped for, the earning potential, and the learning opportunities that parents know come from working have been swiped right out of their hands.
In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey, young people ages 16-24 are more likely to face layoffs due to Coronavirus. Why? Because they make up 24% of employment in the restaurant, retail, and transportation industries. The lack of work leaves behind the opportunity to learn about working with others, being responsible, and accountable to someone other than parents. It may keep them from experiencing a sense of accomplishment from a hard day’s work.
Now what? With Plan A out the window, this is a great opportunity to help your teen put Plan B into motion. In spite of all that COVID-19 has taken from us, there are still plenty of things teens can do this summer. These things can make the time go by faster, but also help them continue to learn the skills they need to master before heading out on their own.
Here are four ways you can help teach your teen responsibility this summer in spite of COVID-19:
1. Set clear expectations for the summer.
Even though many options have been taken off the table, ask your teen to come up with a plan for their summer. The structure still matters and makes a huge difference in a teen’s mindset and motivation. Here are some important parts they may want to include in their plan:
Some type of work
Help with household chores
Time with friends in a socially distant way
Things they need to learn to do for themselves (laundry, cooking, managing money, maintaining a vehicle, etc.
2. Help them think through opportunities that do exist.
Think yard work, shopping for those who cannot get out, being a nanny or manny for parents who have lost childcare and summer camp opportunities, odd jobs, or construction. Don’t forget about those special projects you or others have been putting off or need help doing. Part of the goal here is to help them think outside the box about what’s possible during a difficult time.
3. Encourage them to look at their strengths and identify what they are passionate about.
Are there online experiences they could take advantage of to further enhance their skill set and make them more marketable in the future? Can they take a distance-learning course to help them finish school faster or lessen their class load down the road?
4. Ask them to take on more household responsibilities to give you some relief while providing practical experience.
It may feel like more of a headache in the beginning, but these are all things they need to be able to do once they are out on their own. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and/or house cleaning or making household repairs could be ways they can step up and assist in a big way if they aren’t already. As a bonus, additional teen responsibilities at home is a helpful reminder that in times of crisis, everybody has something valuable to contribute to the good of the family unit.
Obviously, we are all dealing with the unknown here and looking for ways to navigate the constantly changing landscape. Undoubtedly, there is a tremendous financial and emotional strain on teens and adults because of the limitations we’re dealing with and certainly, we need to be sensitive to this. Even in the midst of chaos, circumstances often present themselves that turn out to be positive in the end. I’m hopeful that these tips can help you prepare your teen to handle any situation that comes their way and to help them learn responsibility even in the midst of a pandemic.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2-women-sitting-on-rock-during-daytime-214576-1-scaled-e1596466892331.jpg168400Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2020-06-02 08:46:202020-08-24 10:00:384 Ways to Teach Your Teen Responsibility