Teenagers can present as ungrateful, like they cannot be bothered by you and like they could take you or leave you as their parent at times. There is no arguing this and most parents of teenagers can identify with this at some point – whether all the time or occasionally. Despite this, what I have seen happen over and over is that parents assume that their teenagers do not want to spend time with them and therefore they stop asking because they are tired of being rejected. Although it makes sense that parents stop asking their teens if they want to spend time together, teens often times end up seeing this as a rejection and feel not cared about.
If you are saying to yourself that this does not make any sense you are right! It doesn’t make logical sense that your teenager pushes you away and then gets hurt that you do not ask them if they want to spend more time with you, however, this is often times what happens. One of the ongoing questions parents of teenagers ask themselves is “how involved should I be in my teen’s life?” There is no clear answer or magic formula, however, your teen will notice if you stop trying to be involved. It is a fine line and often confusing for parents who want to spend time with their teenagers but don’t want to feel like they are being controlling or overly involved.
I have worked with parents who were struggling with this issue and below are some of the suggestions we have come up with through the coaching process that have helped them identify ways they can offer to spend time with their teenagers in a way that is enjoyable for both them and their teenager.
- Once every couple weeks, offer to take your teenager out for a meal on the way to or from another activity. This will give you 1:1 time with them consistently and does not require them to miss out on other events with friends.
- Mothers and daughters can go together to get manicures or pedicures. Schedule a time where you can go at the same time and sit side by side so that you are talking during your time at the salon.
- If you share a common hobby or interest with your teenager, this is a great way to spend time with them. Golfing or playing baseball, tennis or volleyball is a great way for parents to spend time with their teenagers. Or if you both enjoy reading or art, you can go together to the library or to shop for books or supplies.
- Use car time as a way of spending time with your teenager. If you are driving them to an appointment or to a friend’s house, try to use this time to talk to them in a casual manner so that they know you are available to them rather than having car rides in silence or with the radio turned up most of the time.
- Schedule a family game night (or allow your teenager to invite a friend also). This is a stretch for many teens but I have worked with teenagers who report that they truly enjoy such events. Teens often enjoy sitting in the comfort of their home and playing games they enjoy with people who do not judge them. It’s worth asking or trying!
- Have one special meal together each week. Maybe make it together, plan it together or go shopping for it together also.
Sometimes it takes some creativity but it is worth putting thought into things that would appeal to your teenager. It is important to continue to offer your teenager opportunities to spend time with you – even if you think they will say they are not interested most times you ask.