It’s been six intense weeks of processing some of the tough topics we are responsible for talking to teenagers about. This series has been a journey so far! And 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 pat yourself on the back for this. <3
This week, we make space for some of the lighter things in life. It’s time to talk about being playful and having fun!
In my work with parents, I use a three-pronged focus on self-care, communication, and child-centered action. Each of these elements deserves, in fact, depends on, joy… YOU and your teenager deserve to have fun and to play. Laughing and smiling are self-care; literally, laughter is good for your health! Laughing and smiling bring connection, which increases communication. Keeping your child at the center of your life in a sustainable way requires playfulness and lightheartedness.
All of the dialogue you are having with your teen… it can’t be just about the heavy, potentially more stressful stuff. Making time to talk about fun is valuable and important. Between the various stresses our teens face– standardized tests, chores, part-time jobs, social media, extracurriculars, friends, etc.– play and freedom can get lost.
This is an invitation to slow down, chill out, and laugh a little (or a lot!).
Parents, you come to me wanting to work on the uncomfortable and scary stuff, but it’s also my job to remind you of the silly, light-hearted stuff… As you positive energy and joy into your lives, I witness you growing the transformations you want and need. Thus, my 4 Go-To Tips for Talking to Your Teenager About Fun:
1. Have fun of your own, and talk about it! Self-care and modeling are crucial to sustaining your work as a parent. Schedule and commit to at least 1-2 outings a week. These can be individual or social depending on your needs and energy. I suggest coffee dates, phone calls, exercise meetups, book clubs, or anything else that brings you JOY. 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… ask yourself: Which opportunities for connection feel the most healing, fun, and life-giving? Prioritize these.
2. Explore what fun looks like, sounds like, and feels like with your teenager. Naming is powerful! Identify and name how you experience fun. With this awareness, you can acknowledge the ways you are already experiencing fun AND intentionally make space for more of it. I recommend exploring this topic with your teen. You and your teen can create your own representation– in words and/or images—of what fun is. (Ask me for the chart I use for this practice.) As you work, 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 freedom. When have you felt this sense of freedom? Can you describe this experience for me?” This activity creates a foundation for your teen to turn to when their desire to take risks or act impulsively is firing; they have already done critical thinking and reflection that can set them up for making healthy, safe, AND fun choices, especially when followed up by tip #3.
3. Invite your teen to create their own outlets for fun. Teens constantly explore 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 created the chart together, you have this language to use as leverage. Ask, “What can you plan this week to 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. 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. This helps them understand that you, too, value fun, which translates to a level of support for your teen. Moreover, this creates opportunities for connection, and this is the space in which trust is built. 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. Make this exercise a ritual that you return to as a family.
I’m so proud of you for being on this journey of parenting with intention. You are doing a wonderful job, and you are not alone. I invite you to have some serious fun in your lives this week, and let me know how it goes! 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?