If you’re new here, you may not know about my Summer of Fun list, so before we delve into the meat of this conversation let me fill you in.
I started the Summer of Fun list when my boys were 12 and 18 because I wanted a way to create memories with them, find ways for us to stay connected as a family, and I wanted something they might pass on to their children one day (at least I hope they’ll take the time to create a list of things to do with my grandbabies).
My boys and I have always been close but the older they got the less we did together. I hated that. I understood they were starting to grow into their own interests, starting to figure out what they wanted, starting to pull away from mom and gain independence. At the same time, I also knew we needed to stay connected as they entered into the times in their lives that could be tough. Who am I kidding? Navigating being a teen and trying to figure out how to be an adult isn’t a ‘could be tough’ situation, it IS tough.
My youngest was entering his teenage years (hormones, starting to head into maturity, girls) and my oldest was entering adulthood (jobs, education, bills, girls) Does anyone else see a repeating element here? Girls!! Lord, help me navigate the dating years. Talk about a scary time. Dating was one of the most exciting and gut-wrenching times of my life. A thrill and disaster all at the same time. Nothing like unrequited love to break your heart and make it beat faster all at the same time. Nothing like that first kiss. Holding hands in the halls at school, the first “REAL” date. But I digress….anywho…uh, where were we? Oh yeah, why I wanted to find a way to connect with my boys. The long and the short of it is this, I needed a method to stay connected to them and doing things together was the perfect solution!
You’d be surprised what sort of conversations happen when you’re ‘just having fun’ with your older kids. They start talking without even realizing they’re sharing some of their most inner thoughts, fears, and ideas.
As my boys have grown, they’re 16 (well almost) and 22 (where does the time go?), the list has evolved to fit their ages and work schedules. Still, I believe in the memory making and will continue to create the list for as long as they will participate. The family time is phenomenal and creates memories we talk about frequently, even years later.
The Summer of Fun list is full of things we wouldn’t normally do. Everything from outings to life -skills and all things in between. We’re not really picky if you want to know the truth. The only criteria, it has to be fun!! Although I do tend to look for things out of the ordinary in hopes it will be something they’ll never forget.
As I looked for ideas for this year I realized I didn’t really write about a lot of last years activities. Sorry ’bout that. I’m not really sure why, but it had to be because we were too busy enjoying ourselves.
It’s always exciting to create our list. In years past I’ve typically created the list alone. The boys simply were not interested in helping, but this year my youngest son was a great deal more involved. He had a ton of ideas and a lot of them were fantastic! I loved having his input because that made the list more tailored to his likes, which is always a good motivator for him to want to participate.
He really likes science which took our list in an entirely new direction this year. We have quite a few STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities, a few trips to science-y places and lots of building and designing activities.
The interesting part about him being more involved was that he still wanted to do some of the more simple activities like playing balloon tennis or blowing bubbles. Who would’ve thought that would be the case? Not me, I can tell you that.
I’m super stoked to see how this plays out and so far I’ve not been disappointed.
I’ve learned a lot about my kids as we’ve done all of the activities over the years, probably the greatest lesson has been understanding teens want to be loved and do things with you even when they say they aren’t interested.
Trust me when I say there have been many times when I’ve had to poke and prod them to get involved in the activity of the day, but once I got them there, they HAD A BLAST!!
I’m sure by now you’re screaming at me to get to the point. I had to tell you that story to tell you this one.
This Summer of Fun story is great but what am I trying to tell you? Here’s my point. As parents, we’re typically really good at doing things with our littles. It’s easy. Simple things can be so much fun when our kids are little and heck, let’s be honest, whatever we plan they sort of have to go along with it because they don’t have much choice. However, as our kids get older we find it more and more difficult to get them to do anything, especially anything that involves spending time with us. I remember all too well when I thought my parents were stupid and didn’t know anything about anything. I spent most of my time with my friends or in my bedroom. I don’t believe teens have changed all that much since I was one (well, I mean they have more technology than I ever did, but they’re still teens, right?).
The things they have, the information they can get their hands on and their capabilities may have changed, but in the end being a teenager is still about friends, what they like, and doing their own thing in order to discover who they are. Oh, and parents are still stupid and know nothing!!
3 Simple Ways to Connect with your Teen or young adult
Teens and young adults can be tricky when it comes to getting them to do things with you. Through our Summer of Fun I’ve accidentally discovered, they do want to spend time with me, but the rules of engagement have changed and I’m the one who needs to change how I think and how I act in order to get them involved. There are 3 criteria my boys want when it comes to spending time with me and I’d bet this applies to other teens too!
- Meet them where they are
- Enter into their world
- Listen, Listen, Listen
Let’s talk about these 3 things for a minute
Meet them where they are -What does that look like? Basically, it’s knowing they have things they want to talk about and things they don’t. They have things they want to share with you and things they don’t. They have fears they’re not sure are normal and are basically a closed book because of that fear. That’s okay.
They have dreams and hopes, ideas and misconceptions. They lock themselves in their rooms and ignore when you talk. They are rarely seen without headphones sticking out of their ears. They play music really loud and NEVER clean their room. Remember when as a toddler your child said a bad word and you laughed because it was soooo cute? Well just wait, honey, when they hit the teen years those same words will reappear A LOT and suddenly it’s not really funny anymore. Suddenly they sound like an adult and that shit’s scary as hell as a parent. Here’s the thing, they’re scared too and yet feelings of invincibility make them adventurous all in the same moment. Guess what? THAT’S OKAY!
You may think they aren’t where they need to be or doing what you think they should be, but let them know, who they are and where they are right now is okay. You’re there to make this journey with them and to accept them no. matter. what.
Enter into their world – Everyone has things they love. Something they are passionate about. Something that brings them joy. Teens and young adults tend to isolate themselves when they do what they love because they believe you, as a parent, wouldn’t possibly enjoy what they like to do. That you couldn’t possibly understand why they love that thing so much. Better to keep it away from good ol’ mom and dad than risk being chastised for liking it. Here’s another ah-ha moment – THEY WANT YOU TO LOVE IT TOO!
Occasionally, (probably needs to be a lot more than that if we’re honest) we as parents, need to grab our courage and enter the lair of our teen’s world ( I know it’s scary in there, but trust me, you’re not gonna wanna miss this).
Play that video game with them. You’re not going to be good at it. Laugh at yourself. Let them see it’s freeing to be able to not take yourself so seriously. Watch the Youtube video over and over again. Laugh at the things they find hysterical, even when you don’t actually understand why it’s funny. Spend time engaging in the things they love. They might buck at first, but with gentle nudging, they’ll let you in because deep down this is what they really want. They long for someone, usually YOU, to come alongside them and show interest in who they are and what they love right now at this moment.
Listen, Listen, Listen – I don’t know about you, but I can get a pretty big head thinking because I’m older and have had more experiences, I know more than my kids. While this is true in many areas, it is not ALWAYS the case. Your kids can teach you a lot if you simply listen instead of talk ( I know, I struggle with that too. I talk and talk and talk and eventually, no ones listening anymore 🙄)
Its important your teen feels heard, really heard. Sometimes as adults we get lost in our own thoughts and how we’re going to answer, which leads to us actually forgetting to listen.
According to mindtools.com, listening involves giving your full attention (that grocery list can wait), make eye contact, use body language that conveys your actually listening and reflect back to show you’re interested in learning and understanding what’s being said and then providing feedback where and if it’s appropriate.
We all want to be heard and understood. To know what we say matters to the person we’re speaking with. Your teen and young adult are no different. They want to know we care and we’re willing and able to actually be interested in what they have to say.
Wrapping it up
Listen, teens and young adults can be a tough bunch to deal with and understand, but making just a few minor adjustments in how you do things, can mean the difference between a good relationship with them and a great one! They are worth it. You love them and you can convey that to them by simply showing an interest in spending time with them and the things they’re interested in. Grab that proverbial bull by the horns and enjoy the ride.
Don’t be confused, these things suggested here ARE SIMPLE, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy. As with any relationship, it takes work to connect with your teen and young adult children. The pay off of making small changes is much greater than anything else you may ever do.
Now go play a video game or watch a goofy Youtube video!
What ways have you found to be most successful when it comes to connecting with your older children? Share your thoughts in the comments so we can all be better parents.