During these years, your children will spend less and less time with you. It’s more important now, more than ever, to connect in ways that really count. But for many of us, there are lots of things that get in the way of us spending time together with our teens/tweens. Our busy schedules, our teen’s desire to spend more time with friends, etc. So, how can we find time together, so we can hang on to our kids?
Simply ‘hang out’ and be available at certain times when you know your kids will be around. Hanging out means being available to listen if your teen/tween wants to talk – and if they don’t. It means being a ‘closet’ listener (not making it obvious that you’re listening). It means listening to who they are rather than focusing on their words.
Here are some tips for spending time that counts. For at least 5 minutes a day, spend time with your teen/tween while keeping:
1. Your mouth shut (listening)
Imagine how your teen will feel after spending 5 minutes with you, and not hearing lectures, judgements or disappointments.
2. Your sense of humour intact (perspective)
Having a sense of humour gives you perspective and objectivity. Humour can help you see things differently. Remember, humour is like changing a baby’s diaper. It doesn’t change things permanently, but it makes things a little easier to take for a while.
3. Your ears open (curiosity)
When your ears are not open, you miss knowing who your children really are. You have to be a good listener if you want to really learn about your child’s reality. Your ears and mouth cannot be open simultaneously. Keep your ears open without expectations of what you will hear.
4. Your heart emanating warmth and gratitude (love)
When you are listening and curious, with a sense of humour, love and gratitude naturally emerge. You will see your teen/tween in a different light. It creates a contagious positive energy, and you’ll see possibilities and solutions rather than mistakes and problems.
5. A desire to understand your teen’s world (focusing)
Keep a desire to understand the world of your teen. This comes naturally from a loving state of mind. Give up trying to mold them into living up to expectations, and focus on what it’s really like from their perspective.
From Nelsen, Jane & Lott, Lynn (2000). Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Your Teen and Yourself through Kind and Firm Parenting. New York, New York: Three Rivers Press.