Are Your Kids Drifting Away?
I just read an article about parenting teenagers and how parents and kids drift apart during those years. It’s natural to some extent as teens need to ready themselves to leave the nest, and parents need to ready themselves to let go. But, then I watched a home video of our family on an extended camping trip with our kids when they were 5, 3, and 1. That got me to thinking. We spend so much time with our kids when they are little. We know their every wish and whim and they know ours, as well as our rules and expectations for them. We know these things when they’re young because we take the time to share ourselves with our children and we pay attention when they share with us. As they get older, less of that happens, and the result is that many parents and kids feel estranged from each other as they get older just when it’s more important than ever that they stay close. I’ve asked my daughters this: As teachers, what would you advise the parents of your students about how to stay connected so that the teen years don’t destroy the relationships? In our case, we blog together but that might not work for everyone. 🙂
Bedroom screens: Growing up, none of us ever had a TV in our bedroom, and though it may seem kind of silly, it forced us to watch TV downstairs where our parents were. As a result, we ended up watching together more often than not and developed mutual loves of all kinds of shows. It led to spending more time together and gave us something to talk about during a time in a lot kid lives where they think their parents just don’t get them at all. I think I was more comfortable talking with my mother about Ally McBeal than my hopeless crush on Kyle, but at least we were talking. So, since lots of kids have computers in their rooms, you may just have to make a rule about where they can watch programming.
I wouldn’t rule out headphones for teens in the car, though. I think I would’ve been a much happier teenager if I hadn’t had to listen to Buffalo Springfield.
Mom Writes: As I recall, it was Leonard Cohen’s music in the car that would make you guys say, “Open a window, please, I’m jumping out.” I also recall when we’d put on radio stations you guys didn’t like you’d use the snow scraper to reach from the back seat to change the station. We’d hear one of you whisper “Get the stick.” That being said, I think listening to each other’s music is a bonding tool, so I say no headphones for teens in the car!
Alexis Writes:Do things together as a family. Yeah, your teenager will moan about doing it but those are the experiences you remember. We went to Italy to visit friends my senior year in high school and, as spoiled as it sounds, I didn’t want to go. But it was a life-changing experience. In the summers we worked in our family business. Because we worked together, we spent a lot of time together. It put stress on our family but it brought us closer together, too. I think when kids get older, parents see their kids changing into adults and think it’s too hard to do family activities. But I think family trips are really important and they end up being the memories that stay with you. So, ignore your sullen teenager, pack up the car, put on your life-changing music that they can’t appreciate, and go do something.
Tamra Writes: Start a family blog, so you can email your children every day and harass them to write on it. Totally kidding. I think traveling together is really important. We did a lot of it when we were little, and even when we were older and I think it made our family really close – too close some times. We learned about each other and we learned about the world together. We learned to deal with each other’s music on 8-hour car rides, and compromise on what to listen to, some times…I think all the time we spent with each other traveling was a big part of why we are all close and still enjoy traveling with each other. Bonus: we have the most miserable video of Alexis at about 12 when she was dragged on a family vacation. It’s good for a laugh, and look how happy she is now.
Having family dinners without TV is a good idea too. I know a lot of families watch TV during dinner, but that might be the only time they’re altogether. If you’re able to get everyone together for dinner, you should probably try talking to each other. It was good for us when we were little because we always had dinner together – even when we were in high school, we almost always had dinner together first, and made plans with our friends afterwards. It was a good time to learn about what everybody was up to and we saw how much work went into making dinner, and we learned about putting our dishes in the sink – all important skills. You have to do stuff together, even if some kids pretend they don’t want to. It’s harder to drift apart when you are always hanging together.