While your child might have enjoyed activities with you when he or she was younger, it’s common for teens to balk at doing things they previously participated in happily. If you are finding that it’s hard to find bonding activities that both you and your teen enjoy, you are not alone. To continue to forge a strong bond with your teen, however, it’s helpful to find something that you have in common. Check out these ideas for finding bonding activities that you can both enjoy and that will help you keep the lines of communication with your teen open.
Find a Challenging Bonding Activity
If both you and your teen are working toward the same goal, you can bond as teammates in addition to strengthening your relationship as parent and child. Whether your activity results in success or failure, it will allow both of you to celebrate your accomplishments or strive to find a better way when things don’t go well. There are many activities that can be a challenge, ranging from one-time outings to long-term projects.
One popular hour-long activity is to go to an escape room. These are entertainment venues where a group of people are locked in a room filled with clues. You have an hour (or some other specified time frame) to figure out the clues and escape the room. Something that is more long term might be having a garden. Particularly if you’ve never gardened with success before, it can be quite challenging to know how much to water different types of plants, which types of fertilizers to use, and the soil conditions that various species prefer.
Find Playful Bonding Activities
You may have heard the adage, “the family that plays together stays together.” It’s trite, but there is some truth in it. Your teen wants to have fun (and so do you!), and you’re both more likely to look forward to an activity if it’s enjoyable. Also, there are benefits of play for adults, too. You’re likely to improve your creativity and problem-solving skills, plus it can relieve stress and make you feel younger. Your teen still likes to play, as well; he or she is not very far out from the childhood years.
Here are some ideas of playful bonding activities for you and your teen:
- playing board or card games
- playing video games
- joining a team sport together
- playing frisbee at the park
- learning magic tricks together
Your teen likely spends some time playing, so see if you can join them. You might find yourself trying to beat his or her high score on Fruit Ninja or learning how to play Magic: The Gathering, even if it’s not something you would have chosen yourself.
Find Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteering together is an excellent way to spend time bonding with your teen. In addition to the activity itself, there’s the shared feeling of helping others, which has a variety of benefits to the givers, as well as to the recipients. Volunteering can help both you and your teen increase your confidence and self-esteem, learn new skills, meet others, and make a difference in the lives of others. The two of you might take on a pet cause and look for other ways to help out, which is another way to bond now and for years into the future. As a side benefit, volunteer opportunities look good on college applications and will help your teenager to become more well-rounded and less self-centered.
Look for a volunteer opportunity that appeals to both of you. First, think about what interests you have in common or would like to learn more about. If your teen is a talented artist, he or she might like to teach children how to paint, and you could do the same. If you both love animals, you could volunteer together at a shelter or a horse stable. There are agencies like Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for people who could not otherwise afford a home of their own. Look into the different opportunities available in your area.
Find a Relaxing Bonding Activity
Sometimes you just want to kick back and relax. While a completely passive activity might not be the best to facilitate conversation with your teenager, it can help you find common interests and give you something to talk about later. One popular example of this type of activity is the Netflix (or Hulu or Amazon Prime) binge. Find a show you like that has several seasons on your streaming site of choice, then zone out and binge-watch several (or many) episodes at a time. Or you could do the same with YouTube; look up music videos that were popular when you were a teen and watch your teenager laugh at the big hair, choreographed dance moves, and period clothing.
There are other slightly less passive activities that can help you bond with your teen, too. Drive to the beach and watch the sunrise or sunset, or sit on a bench at the mall to people-watch. Just the drive alone can give you great time to talk to your teen; you don’t have to look at each other, so it might be a good time to bring up sensitive or potentially embarrassing topics.
Tips for Success
When looking for bonding activities for you and your teen, keep an open mind. It will probably seem like you’re compromising more than your teen is when looking for common interests. This is normal. Remember that your teenager is still a child and is naturally still somewhat self-centered. Encourage your teenager to step outside the box, but if he or she balks, don’t make it an argument or a deal-breaker; keep in mind that the goal is to bond, not for you to push your teen into something he or she is not comfortable doing.
Also, when you are engaging in your activity, make it a no-nagging zone. This means that if you have discipline issues to address or if you need to otherwise engage your teen in something that he or she will see as an argument, choose another time to do so. Keep your communication positive while you are enjoying an activity with your teen so it’s enjoyable for everyone.
Finding bonding activities can be difficult, but as long as you are open to trying new things and you have a sense of humor, you’re sure to find something that both you and your teen can enjoy together.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.