Acknowledging Yourself, Your Teen, and the Relationship
I know that you are having big and important and difficult and meaningful conversations with the young people in your life. I see you! While there are no exact answers, no “right” ways to have these conversations, there are strategies that help cultivate connection and trust.
You are doing great! Wherever you are in this process, you are growing, learning, and practicing. Take a moment to celebrate and acknowledge yourself, your teen, and the relationship you are nurturing together. Yes, even baby steps forward count!
Your Joy is Needed Here
Parents often reach out wanting to work on the uncomfortable and scary stuff, AND it’s also my job to remind you of the silly, light-hearted stuff– the stuff that sustains you in your role of parent or caregiver.
In my work with parents, I offer a three-pronged focus on self-care, communication, and teen-centered action. Each of these elements deserves, and in fact, depends on joy. You and your teenager deserve to have fun and to play.
In this midst of all of the worthwhile work you are doing together, it is crucial that you and your teen are also making space for the lighter things in life.
Laughing and smiling are self-care– check out these 5 things you probably don’t know about self-care; literally, laughter is good for your health! Laughing and smiling bring connection, which increases communication. Win-win-win!
Let us also acknowledge the various stressors teens are facing– COVID-19 uncertainties, academic pressures, chores, part-time jobs, social media dynamics, extracurriculars, friends, etc. In the midst of all of this, young people can forget to tend to their needs for play and fun.
This is an invitation to slow down, chill out, and laugh a little (or a lot!).
4 Tips for Talking with Teenagers about Having Fun
1. Have fun of your own, and talk about it! Schedule and commit to at least 1 outing, activity, or other self-care each week. These can be individual or social depending on your needs and energy. Focus on quality, not quantity. Beware of overbooking yourself or stretching yourself thin by saying yes to opportunities that don’t align with your needs. Instead, discern and ask yourself: Which opportunities for connection feel the most healing, fun, and life-giving? Prioritize these, and share about your plans with your family. Fun can be watching a favorite show while you take a bath, attending a book club, walking to a park, phone calls with friends, exercise meetups, or anything else that brings you JOY.
2. Explore what fun looks like, sounds like, and feels like with your teenager. Together, identify and name how you each experience fun. This awareness will help you acknowledge the ways you are already experiencing fun AND intentionally make space for more of it. It might be helpful to do some writing, drawing, or doodling as you all talk. (Ask me for the 3-column chart I use for this practice.) As you create, or at the end, share and compare. Give your teen compliments such as, “I love how you describe that fun feels like freedom. I agree!” Dig a little deeper with statements such as, “I’m interested in hearing more about relaxation. When have you felt this sense of relaxation?” This activity creates a foundation of critical thinking and reflection that can set your teen up for making choices they feel good about.
3. Invite your teen to create their own outlets for fun. Teens are continually exploring their place and power in the world. They want to have a say in their lives. To support this process, encourage them to craft the fun and excitement they want in their life. Once you’ve practiced tip #2 together, you have common language that will offer context. You might ask, “What can you plan this week that will add laughter to your life?” or “What are you doing this week that incorporates the friends you mentioned spending time with?” When you can, open your home or energy to your teen; help them bring this fun to fruition. As often as possible, say “yes” when your teen has an ask or request for creating joy (unless it’s way out of range in regards to practicality or safety).
4. Create opportunities to laugh together. Make time and space to be silly, playful, or curious with your teen. These moments create opportunities for connection, trust, and rapport. Check out my list of 25 ways to connect with your tween/teen. Pick a few opportunities to create fun together, and put the dates on your calendar. Furthermore, make this a ritual that you return to regularly.
Noticing the Shifts
As you and your teen get intentional about having fun, consider: What shifts do you notice after making time to play? How does this fun impact the more serious moments of connection between you and your teen? As you reflect on this together, you might like to create (or revisit) your support system maps, ensuring that joy, fun, and play are represented there!