Posts Tagged ‘teen activities’

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.

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“Island of Competence” is a term coined by Dr. Robert Brooks and is a term I love. What this is (and this applies to adults too), is a term for those things inIsland life that make us feel valuable and make us feel good about ourselves.  These are the things that give us a sense of accomplishment and that make us feel important despite all the things that can make us feel the opposite of this.  Our Islands of Competence are our strengths.  Teenagers need these islands in their lives so that they can feel connected, important and like they have something to contribute to the world.  Without this, they are swimming around in a sea of feeling like a failure, like they don’t belong, like they are not wanted and like they are not valuable.  Floating in this sea of negativity and loneliness for too long can have many potential negative consequences for teenagers (depression, anger, falling in with a negative crowd, engaging in at-risk behaviors or self-destruction).  If your teenager is experiencing any of these, you may want to seek professional help but also, really try to help them find their Islands of Competence.  Teens would much rather be involved in things that they can be proud of and which make them feel good about themselves than in negative things – they may just need some help, support and encouragement so that they are able to see what positive things they can offer the world.

So, as a parent, how can you help your teen find their Island of Competence? 

1.       Make a real effort to frame things in the positive when possible.   If your teenager is having difficulties in school that need to be addressed, make sure the discussion also includes the positive things they are doing because perhaps those things can be used to help resolve the negative things.

2.       Be open.  Be open to topics or interests your teenager brings up, even if they seem bazaar or unusual to you.  Try to keep an open mind and have your teen educate you about them.  Be interested and see if these interests can be channeled into a positive activity, hobby, etc.

3.       Reinforce the positive.  We get more of what we focus on so focusing on the positive things your teen is doing or the positive things they are expressing interest in will get you more of those things.  “Catch them being good” and don’t let the frustrating or negative things they are doing completely overshadow any positive things.  This will open their eyes to their own positive qualities as well.

4.       Help your teen reach outside their comfort zone.  Teens may sometimes have interests that are not “typical” teenage interests so they will talk themselves out of them because of their fear of what others may say or think.  Help them to not do this.  Help them to pursue their interests and feel safe doing this so that they are able to give new things a try.Father and boy

5.       Help them see their talents.  Take notice of all the little things your teen does well and tell them about these things as they come up.  Encourage other adults in their life to do the same.

6.       Help your teenager brainstorm ways of connecting with others around their strengths.  Whether it is sports, drawing, writing, singing, dancing, reading, debating, swimming, mentoring younger children, talking to or keeping the elderly company, caring for animals, science, bike riding, cooking, taking pictures, hiking, playing a musical instrument, volunteering, or so many other things…help them see how these things make them special, valuable and how they can been used to connect with others.  Sometimes this takes brainstorming on the part of parents also but it is well worth it to see your teenagers find their own Islands of Competence.

Go to the How To Parent A Teen website for more tips and support specific to Parenting Teens.

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