Connecting with teenagers takes effort. Whether you’re the annoying younger sister, or the parent, you have to find time to spend with teenagers on their terms. It’s easy to give up and blame the lack of conversation, or connection, on your teenager – you must find ways to meet them where they are.
Spending time with your teen often means spending time with their friends. Keep the pantry stocked with snacks, the fridge loaded with their favorite soda, and be the house where they want to hang out. This doesn’t mean allowing behavior that isn’t age appropriate. It does mean saying yes to a messy kitchen, a sofa full of teenagers, or a backyard whiffle ball game.
Communication might look different than you’d like. Figure out the emoji’s and GIFs that have become your teens primary language. A good conversation might not be on the couch, after school, face to face. It might be a quick text after practice, or an Instagram message while they’re out with friends. They’ll tease you for using the wrong symbol or a GIF from a tv show they’ve never seen, but they’ll see that you put forth the effort.
Remember that alarm clock I used in junior high? Time to dust it off, too. Teens are usually looking for someone to talk to after a night out. Wake up, have a snack ready, and most importantly, just listen. Be on the couch with popcorn when they get in on a Friday night, and see what happens. Don’t have a long list of interrogating questions ready to fire – but greet them. Offer them something to eat, and show them you’re not in a rush to do anything.
Being a part of Youth for Christ, we spend a lot of time creating environments where all kinds of teenagers feel welcome. We are very intentional about the music, the schedule, even the locations of where we gather students. As parents, we must be just as intentional with our own children, so stock up on snacks, download the latest emoji’s, and find your old alarm clock!