If you have a teen, you know that the clock is ticking on how much longer they will be under your roof and available to hang out with you anytime you want. Doesn’t if feel like only a few years ago that you were filling their sippy cup and planning play dates? Now here you are watching them drive away to regularly spend time with friends or hang out in their rooms on their phones with door shut. Creating quality time before they leave the nest is vital to the foundation of this new grownup relationship you are cultivating with them and vital for the future connection you will have after they leave home.
Some of you might be saying to yourself …I don’t want quality time with my teen daughter. She is so hard to get along with and sometimes really hard to like. I get it. I really do. I’m raising a teen as well. So, I know there are times you need to walk out of the room to not say something you will regret!
That said, even when your daughter is hard to like, she needs to know that she is loved, wanted and important. One of the ways we do that is by spending quality time with them…even if they act like they don’t want time with us, they actually do. Every child wants to know that their parent likes to be with them.
What is quality time?
Time in which you are both giving each other your full attention – no computers, phone, texting, scrolling social media. She has your undivided attention. You are making eye contact and actively listening and engaged.
This may be an agreed upon time or a random 30 minutes on the couch together. I’m a huge proponent of parent/child dates especially as teens when they can have full scheduled and can be busy with friends, sports, after school activities or social media.
Look for the signs when your daughter wants to talk.
She is more open to talking and connecting when she isn’t in the middle of something. Yes, the tik tok that she is watching is super important! If she is in her room with the door closed, knock. Ask if you can come in. Ask if it is a good time. When she is resting on the couch or her bed, this might not be the best time to approach her. When she is rushing out the door, save your questions/comments until later. Check her mood. If she is crunchy, save it. It will set you up for success in your conversations.
Activity to promote quality time:
- Set aside a time for you two to be together, just the two of you. Go out to dinner, go get ice cream …whatever she likes to do. Moms and dads can do this separately – one on one. She has different relationship with each of her parents and needs each individual relationship to be nurtured.
- Bring paper and a pen or a phone to take notes.
- Start the conversation off by saying something like: “You are one of my favorite people. I love being with you. You are growing up and going to be leaving home in a few years, so I want to soak up as much time as I can with you knowing that you need time to be with friends and do your schoolwork. Would you be willing for us to have a mother/daughter date once a month (or once a week or bi-weekly)?”
- Make a list of 10-20 things you two both enjoy and could enjoy doing together.
- Pick a date on the calendar for your father/daughter date
- Decide if you want it to be a standing date (every other Tuesday night) or you can pick the day/time for your next date at the end of your current date
Ideas on how to spend your quality time:
- Walk in the neighborhood
- Bike ride
- Jump on trampoline
- Be creative together – take an art class, take photos, make pottery, paint, calligraphy, sew, crochet, color
- Sing / Dance
- Cook / Bake
- Have a tea party
- Manicure / Pedicure
- Do each other’s make up or hair
- Put outfits together
- Go to breakfast, lunch, dinner, ice cream
- Pick a type of food (i.e. breakfast tacos). Each date, pick a new taco place to try in your town
- Go snow skiing, water skiing, wake boarding
- Do a zip line together or an obstacle course
- Write a poem, story, song together
- Play instruments together
- Go thrifting, shopping, online shopping
- Go to the dog park
- Go for a drive with some great music
- Create a music playlist together
- Plant flowers or vegetables
- Book Club for 2: let her pick the book, set a date for you both to complete reading/listening to the book, and then go out on a date just to discuss the book
- Our Show: Make weekly time to watch a TV show together, just the 2 of you, it can be "our show."
- Redecorate: Make a Pinterest board together of ideas for redecorating an area of your home, focus on updating it one piece at a time.
- Jewelry Making: take a class, order the pieces together, make jewelry for yourself or to give to others, extra: choose stones/charms with special meaning or intentions
- Question Cards: Go for a walk or car ride and ask each other questions from a question card deck. Both of you should answer each question and listen with curiosity and zero judgement
- Letters: Pick out a special journal and write letters/love notes back and forth to each other
- Volunteer: Volunteer together around a shared interest (animal shelter, food bank, trail making, advocacy)
- Yoga: try out a different yoga class regularly... try goat yoga or online yoga with “Yoga with Adriene”
- Day-Cation: Take a road-trip somewhere nearby and within a day's drive. Explore the town just the two of you.
- Plants: Shop for plants and then learn to grow them together. Extra: give each plant a name and pick out just the right spot for them in your home.
- Mirror Messages: Put dry erase markers in a bathroom and leave love notes for her on the mirror.
- Stay-Cation: Have a cozy day together in your comfiest clothes, favorite blankets, favorite comfort food, and let her pick what you watch (even if it's all her favorite you tubers or tik tokers...)
- 2 Person Sport: learn a two-person sport together: tennis, pickleball, horseback riding, paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, dog walking...
- She's the Teacher: let her teach you all about something she loves (think tik tok, snapchat, YouTube)
- Summer Wish List: create a list together of the top 10 things you both want to do together this summer.
I hear from so many girls that they want to have different conversations with their parents. They don’t want to always talk about school, grades, homework, projects, teachers, college, their GPA or SATs, etc. They have so much more on their minds that they would like to discuss or share. Get creative with your conversation starters. Bring a question or two to your quality time experience.
Conversation starters during quality time:
- Scale of 1-10 how happy are you in your life?
- Scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your social life?
- What are three things going well in your life?
- What are three things you would change in your life?
- What are your top three stressors in your life?
- What is one thing I could do better as a mom/dad?
- What is one thing you like the most about our relationship?
- What is one thing you wish I did more of?
- What is one thing you wish I did less of?
- What are the top three places in the world you would like to travel to?
- If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you try?
- What is a secret dream you have?
- If you could have named yourself, what would your name be?
- What is one thing you would like to know about me? About my childhood? My teen year?
- Do you think you would like to get married one day?
- Do you think you would like to be a mom one day?
- Who is your best friend? What do you like about her/him? What do you wish were different about her/him?
- What class do you wish your school had? Why?
- What do you think people your age struggle with the most?
- What do you like about our family? What do you wish were different?
Start creating some quality time today! It's not too late!