In The Words of Parents of Teens
- “Mornings rarely go as planned.”
- “We usually run late and can’t seem to get out of the house without forgetting something.”
- “Communication with my teens feels spotty and inconsistent.”
- “Dinner is a madhouse- people in and out, late, or half-present.”
Parents, you work hard to create structures that promote family connection and communication. I see this and hear this every day! This intentional time and space for building and maintaining family relationships, and relationships with your children, is of utmost importance.
And, this work can be exhausting, logistically challenging, and sometimes, thankless. Parents often describe daily routines as feeling strained and exhausting. (Are you nodding your head yet?!)
Reality vs. “Ideal”
You probably have visions or even checklists of what the perfect day looks like in your family and home. You might be able to describe the ideal schedules and routines of each family member. Ideally, everyone and everything would flow seamlessly from one task or engagement to the next– including relaxed, quality time. And, of course, everything would feel easy and cooperative, right?!
Having these visions is important! And there’s an opportunity here.
Stop. Breathe. Feel.
Are you grasping onto these visions?
Do you typically expect your day to go exactly as it does in your daydream?
Might you be missing out on opportunities to be with your teen because you are focused on the “ideal”?
Sometimes we all need a refresh button for our perspective, and reframing the situation by focusing on quality time may be your pathway to deeper connection with your teen.
5 Awesome Ways to Create Quality Time with Your Teenager
1. View quality time and daily routines as separate practices.
See the routines as more functional, rituals as self-care, and the quality time as the dedicated space for relationship building. As you begin to separate these various ways you and your family spend time, notice what shifts. I also invite you to have an open and explicit conversation about these different practices with your teenager and the rest of your family. Together, you can brainstorm what tasks and activities belong to each category.
2. Talk about routines with your teenager.
Ask your teenager open-ended questions such as, “What do you need to do each morning to be ready for school on time?” or “What routines help you feel settled at night, as you prepare for rest?” Engaging your teen in this thought process helps them take agency in their life. Through these conversations, you invite your teenager to co-create family life with you, which over time with translate to genuine engagement, buy-in, and collaboration.
3. Consider what quality time really means to you, and explore this idea with your teen.
I love making mindmaps for this kind of topic! (See photo below.) Consider brainstorming EXACTLY what quality time looks like, sounds like, and feels like to you. You might invite your teen to do this with you, creating shared activity and think time with them. Communicating clearly and in detail about quality time will bring you and your teen into greater understanding of one another’s needs, preferences, and desires. In other words, you will understand one another more deeply! Keep these mindmaps somewhere you’ll see them regularly, offering a reminder of ways that you can and do connect.
4. Sit down with family on a weekly basis to schedule quality time for the upcoming week.
I suggest choosing a mutually agreed upon day and time to sit down for a chat. Together, commit to 2-3 specific ways you’ll connect over the course of the week. Don’t worry, these don’t have to be grand or expensive or lengthy. Schedule dinner for Tuesday, play practice pick up on Thursday, pedicures at home on Friday, or Netflix on Sunday. Keep your mind open as your teen shares ideas about how they’d like to connect! Validate their suggestions, and if they are possible, help make them happen, even if it takes some time and logistics to plan or follow through. Additionally, share your ideas, giving your teen the opportunity to receive and respond as well. It’s important that we are all giving AND receiving.
5. Allow your teen to say no.
If you make an invitation, and your teenager declines or is uninterested, remember it’s never personal. You may also engage your teen by asking what their thought process for reaching this decision was. Giving young people the power of choice and the power to make decisions thoughtful supports their growth to empowerment.
And then what?
As you use these 5 ways of creating quality time with your teen, slow down and observe. Notice what happens as you reframe and make shifts in how you experience and view quality time.
Stop. Breathe. Feel.
Are you experiencing more ease in daily routines?
Are you enjoying quality time with greater presence?
Where is there still resistance?
This topic, like so many in parenthood, doesn’t come with straightforward answers because it’s a process. I encourage you to stay patient with yourself and your teenager. Finally, as you and your family explore what you want quality time to be like in your family, you may enjoy documenting your go-to supports using this support system map.