Spending Quality Time With Your Teen

By — A Better Child
Updated on Sep 3, 2009

With our ever increasing busy schedules, it is easy to lose focus on spending quality time with our teenagers. It is important to remember that even though our children are nearing adulthood, they still require parental involvement. Communication breakdown has been cited as a major cause of parent/teen conflict over the years.

A survey conducted in 2000 focused on how families are connecting with their teenagers. The Global Strategy Group interviewed 400 kids nationwide between the ages of 12 and 15 and parents of children in that age group. The good news: Most teens turn to their parents when they find themselves in times of need. The report stated that overall, 78 percent of teenagers rely on parents for advice.

Eating Together

The disappointing aspect of the research was the realization that there are a large number of families who cannot find time to sit together for family meals. One in four parents reports eating four or less meals a week together as a family. Even more disturbing is that 10 percent of the parents interviewed reported that they eat just one meal a week or never eat with their teens.

Mealtime can be a time of re-connection for families, especially for busy teenagers. It can be a great time to ask questions about your child's day without interruption. If given the opportunity to spend a meal together, keep these points in mind:

  • Turn off the phone during mealtime to ensure quiet, uninterrupted time.
  • Let each child have equal time to talk about their day. Don't interrupt them.
  • Ask specific questions of your teenager (this tells them you are interested).
  • Keep the conversation light; avoid arguing with them at this point.
  • Tell them about your day (this tells them you respect their opinions).
  • Make mealtime fun. 

Other Ways to Spend Time Together

With the demands of work obligations for both teenagers and parents, it is becoming more difficult to spend mealtimes together. If this is a problem in your home, there are other ways to interact with your adolescents and keep connected. Here are some ways to spend quality time:

  • Take them with you for a drive. If they are ready to drive, go somewhere and practice with them. If you are driving, this is a great time to open up a conversation.
  • Take your teen to a movie that they want to see.
  • Go for coffee (or tea) once a week – even for just 30 minutes. This is a great opportunity to find out what is going on with their life.
  • Go shopping at their favorite mall.
  • Have them help you with a home project: re-papering the bath or painting the kitchen. Teens really do love to help. It makes them feel like you trust them.
  • Cook with your teenager. This is a great way to share a meal and teach them to cook. It can be a lot of fun, too.
  • Go to a concert or sporting event with your teen.
  • Take your teen to work for the day.
  • Pitch a tent in the backyard and escape the rest of the family for a night.
  • Go for a nature walk or a hike; pack a lunch, a radio and a sense of adventure.
  • Make one day per month "all about them" day; let them choose their favorite meal and activity for the day.
  • Rent movies and stay up late.
  • Go to the music store with them; let them show you what kind of music they like. (Be interested, even if you don't like it!)
  • Spend a Saturday morning at the flea market or garage sales. Give them a few bucks and dare them to find the best bargain.
  • Volunteer with your teenager. Go to Volunteer Match to find great opportunities to help others in need.
  • Plan a monthly "family night" where you play board games, cards or just hang out and watch movies together.

Pastor Jerry Schreur, a marriage and family therapist for more than 30 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan describes the characteristics of strong families. "According to a study of 3,000 families, [strong families] spend a quantity of time in which there can be quality experiences and mutual satisfaction," he says.

Bea Sheftel, a mom from Manchester, Conn., recalls how much fun she had with her son when he was a teenager. "He loved to play those TV computer games, Atari and Playstation, so I played the games with him for about an hour after school," she says. "During that time we talked. He told me about school, it was great. He really opened up to me, and I found out the neatest things about his life."

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